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Text messages between former FirstEnergy execs leads to calls for new audit

FirstEnergy headquarters in Akron
Tim Ruddell
FirstEnergy headquarters in Akron

The utility bosses talked about their companies' priorities and if they can get help from the then-chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel is calling for an investigation into text messages exchanged by former top executives at FirstEnergy.

The OCC is renewing their call for an audit to look into possible corporate separation violations between FirstEnergy and its affiliates.

This is based on a text exchange it obtained between former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and Dennis Chack, former manager of a FirstEnergy affiliate known as FirstEnergy Advisors.

The two men text about the goals of their companies with Jones saying then-PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo will "get it done" for them.

Jones goes on to say Randazzo "cannot just jettison" the process because there was "a lot of talk going on in the halls of PUCO about does he work there or for us?"

Text messages between former FirstEnergy executives.
Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel
Text messages between former FirstEnergy executives.

The text included several priorities for FirstEnergy including decoupling, the significantly excessive earnings test, and the distribution modernization rider.

In September 2020, the OCC called for an audit into FirstEnergy's relationship with FirstEnergy Advisors.

The new filing with the PUCO by the OCC, joined by the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, says "Because the auditor has not had the opportunity to investigate the recently disclosed communications seemingly between regulated and non-regulated senior officials and the effect of the House Bill 6 scandal on corporate separations, the audit should be supplemented."

FirstEnergy has said it bribed Randazzo with $4 million before he became chair. Randazzo has said he did nothing wrong and he has yet to be charged with a crime.

A previous audit into FirstEnergy' corporate separation found a few "minor non-compliance issues."

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