Ohio’s governor and lieutenant governor have been drawn into a FirstEnergy Corp. investors lawsuit connected to the $60 million bribery scheme concocted by the Akron-based energy giant and a now-incarcerated House speaker.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine received a subpoena for documents in the case dated Nov. 17, according to a copy provided to The Associated Press by his office on Tuesday and first reported by cleveland.com. His spokesperson, Dan Tierney, said the governor’s lawyers are reviewing the order.
It seeks any communications DeWine might have had with FirstEnergy, executives named in the lawsuit or Sam Randazzo, the state’s former top utility regulator, that related to former House Speaker Larry Householder’s efforts to secure power, to the tainted $1 billion nuclear bailout legislation Householder championed in exchange for the bribes, and to a host of other related topics.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, also a Republican, received a similar subpoena on the same date — and, according to a court filing Monday, is scheduled to be deposed in the case sometime between Feb. 28 and March 19.
“We’re aware of the civil investor lawsuit against FirstEnergy,” Husted spokesperson Hayley Carducci said in an email. “The Lt. Governor has already provided public records pertaining to this, and we will continue to comply as we have done in the past. There’s no new information to disclose.”
The civil lawsuit is distinct from a separate, ongoing criminal case, in which Householder, lobbyist Matt Borges and two others have been convicted. A fifth man charged died by suicide in 2021. Householder was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and Borges received five.
Tierney said no one in the DeWine administration has ever been subpoenaed or identified as under investigation in the criminal probe.
Nor has Randazzo, the governor’s pick for the powerful chairmanship of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, whose Columbus townhome was searched by the FBI in November 2020.
As chair of the commission, Randazzo held immense sway over the fortunes of FirstEnergy and other investor-owned utilities.
During his confirmation hearing for the job, he testified before a state Senate committee that he was asked before DeWine and Husted took office on Jan. 14, 2019, to forgo plans to retire to Naples, Florida, where he owned an expensive waterfront home, and to return to government at the utility commission.
He specified during the confirmation hearing that Husted and Laurel Dawson, DeWine’s then-chief of staff, were among those who helped recruit him. DeWine disregarded cries of alarm from consumer and environmental advocates at the time, as well as pleas from GOP insiders concerned about Randazzo’s selection, the AP first reported in December 2020.
When he was Ohio House speaker in 2007, Husted appointed Randazzo to the Public Utilities Commission Nominating Council and the two were allies in thwarting renewable and alternative energy mandates proposed by then-Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and opposed by a coalition of utilities led by FirstEnergy.
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