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Sam Randazzo Resigns As PUCO Chair To Avoid Being A 'Distraction'

Sam Randazzo, former PUCO Chair, on "The State of Ohio"
Statehouse News Bureau
Sam Randazzo, former PUCO Chair, on "The State of Ohio"

Ohio's top utilities regulations official has resigned just days after FBI agents searched his home in an early morning raid. Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) announced the departure of PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo, thanking him for his service.

Along with the FBI raid, FirstEnergy filed an SEC report Thursday saying former company executives made an improper payment of $4 million to an entity associated with an individual who is now a state regulator.

Randazzo was not named in the FBI investigation nor in the SEC filing.

However, DeWine says both caused Randazzo's resignation.

"He indicated to me that he felt that in regards to recent events that have occurred, the FBI search of his home coupled with the SEC filing yesterday that he would going forward -- in his words -- be a distraction from the work from the PUCO and felt that this is the best thing for him to do," DeWine said.

Randazzo's resignation letter did not mention the FBI search or SEC filing.

"In present times, when you, good sir, are valiantly battling to save Ohioans from the surging attack of COVID-19, there is no room or time for me to be a distraction. Accordingly, I hereby resign from my position as Chair effective immediately," Randazzo wrote in his resignation letter.

Randazzo, a former lobbyist for large energy users, went on to list several issues he hopes the state and the PUCO will address in the future when it comes to electric distribution and rates for customers.

Clean energy and environmental advocates had called on DeWine to not appoint Randazzo to the position in 2019, citing his ties with the companies he used to represent.

We didn't think he should be seated as chair in the first place and expressed our concern to Gov. DeWine at the time. Since Randazzo's appointment, his tenure as chair of the PUCO and OPSB (Ohio Power Siting Board) has included questionable orders, inappropriate concurring statements, ongoing accusations of bias, and politicization of the PUCO/OPSB," said Neil Waggoner with the Sierra Club's Ohio Chapter.

Randazzo's just the latest name in a statewide shake-up that began with a federal corruption investigation allegedly involving FirstEnergy, former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Medina), and top lobbyists.

Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) issued a written statement following Randazzo's resignation saying, "The dominoes continue to fall as Ohioans keep learning just how deep the corruption that created HB6 is. So far, we have had five federal indictments, two guilty pleas, five energy executives that have been terminated and now the top utility regulator in the state and an architect of HB6 has resigned. But what hasn’t happened? House Republicans still stand in the way of repealing HB6."

HB6 is a sweeping energy bill that bailed out two nuclear power plants, created subsidies for coal and solar plants, rolled back renewable energy standards, and eliminated energy efficiency standards.

Federal investigators say a utility, widely believed to be FirstEnergy, sent millions of dollars to a dark money group which then campaigned and lobbied for the passage of HB6.

House and Senate leaders say they want to repeal HB6 during the lame duck session, however, several bills that propose a repeal are still in committee.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.