Two former executives of FirstEnergy and a former public utility commissioner have been indicted in a multimillion-dollar public corruption scandal, Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, said on Monday.
Charles Jones, who was FirstEnergy’s chief executive from 2015-20, and Michael Dowling, a former vice president of external affairs at the company, are accused of paying Samuel Randazzo, a former chairman of Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission, more than $4.3 million to allow the company to overcharge customers, among other offenses.
Collectively, the three men are charged with 27 counts, including theft, bribery and fraud. The charges were filed on Friday but weren’t made public until Mr. Yost announced them on Monday.
The indictments are the first against FirstEnergy executives in perhaps the biggest public corruption scandal in Ohio’s history, one that has already landed a former lawmaker in prison. State and federal officials have accused the company, an Ohio-based electric utility that serves six million customers, of paying state lawmakers and regulators millions of dollars in exchange for subsidies and other favorable treatment.
Mr. Randazzo, the utility commission’s chairman from April 2019 to November 2020, is accused of taking bribes from FirstEnergy and then lobbying for the company. The indictment says he accepted the money as “consulting services” through two shell companies, Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio and IEU-Ohio Administration, which the indictment also names.
Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Randazzo in December with parallel accusations. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and awaits trial.
The scandal came to light in 2020 after federal officials arrested Ohio’s House speaker at the time, Larry L. Householder. In federal court in March, Mr. Householder was convicted of accepting a $60 million bribe from FirstEnergy in exchange for passing House Bill 6, a $1.3 billion bailout for two troubled nuclear power plants the company operates. Mr. Householder was sentenced in June to 20 years in prison.
A FirstEnergy spokeswoman, Jennifer Young, said the company had cooperated with law enforcement. “Today, FirstEnergy is a different, stronger company with new leadership, a sound strategy and a best-in-class compliance program,” she said.