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DeWine on former PUCO chair Sam Randazzo: "I wish we hadn't appointed him"

Gov. Mike DeWine takes questions from reporters on Feb. 13, 2024.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine takes questions from reporters on Feb. 13, 2024.

Two former FirstEnergy executives and the former head of the state’s utility regulator have pleaded not guilty to 27 state criminal charges in the $60 million bribery scheme involving House Bill 6. The indictment suggests FirstEnergy tried to make sure Gov. Mike DeWine didn’t know about the deals involving the energy law that featured a billion dollar nuclear plant bailout.

And DeWine said he didn't.

“I believe in the criminal justice system. We're going to see what happens," DeWine said on Tuesday, adding that he assumes there will be a trial in Summit County on bribery, theft and other corruption charges for former execs Chuck Jones and Michael Dowling and former Public Utilities Commission chair Sam Randazzo, who DeWine appointed to that position in 2019.

Randazzo is also facing federal charges. But these are the first criminal charges filed against Jones and Dowling.

Randazzo became PUCO chair in April 2019, three months before House Bill 6 was signed into law. Jones and Dowling are charged with paying Randazzo a $4.3 million bribe for Randazzo’s work for FirstEnergy. The indictment says that includes writing part of House Bill 6.

Side by side mug shots of three white males.
Summit County Sheriff
Mug shots of Charles "Chuck" Jones, Michael Dowling and Sam Randazzo, released by the Summit County Sheriff's office after they appeared in court on Feb. 12, 2024.

DeWine has said before that he knew Randazzo had worked for FirstEnergy. But he added, “What we did not know, of course, is as far as there's payment, and, of course, the allegation is that the payment was, in fact, a bribe. We obviously did not know that.”

On Wednesday, DeWine took questions from reporters again, saying he'd picked Randazzo to chair the PUCO because Randazzo is an expert on utilities. DeWine said he wasn’t concerned that Randazzo had worked for FirstEnergy, but said he didn’t know the utility had paid Randazzo so much money.

“I've said that if I knew that piece of information, you know, we would not have appointed him, you know, if we if we knew that that amount of money," DeWine said. “You go with the information that you go with. Is that something that I wish we hadn't done? Well, sure. I wish we hadn't appointed him. We did not know all of those facts. I did not know all those facts at that time.”

According to the indictment, DeWine’s chief of staff knew FirstEnergy had paid Randazzo $4.3 million, which Randazzo claimed closed a consulting agreement. In a July 2021 plea agreement, FirstEnergy admitted to bribing Randazzo and Republican former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

Randazzo pleaded not guilty to federal bribery and corruption charges in December, in the case that prosecutors have called the largest corruption scandal in Ohio history.

Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges were convicted in 2023 of federal racketeering charges for their roles in the scheme. Householder is doing 20 years in prison; Borges is doing five years. Three other people were arrested in the case. Lobbyist Juan Cespedes and Householder aide Jeff Longstreth have cooperated with investigators. Lobbyist Neil Clark died by suicide in March 2021.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at