In a SEC Filing, FirstEnergy Admits Paying $4M to End a Consulting Agreement That Began in 2013
On the day legislation was signed into law making Ohio the first state in the nation to freeze clean energy standards and eliminate requirements for renewable energy, Sam Randazzo purchased a property at 333 S. Washington Ave. in Columbus. Three days later, on June 17, 2014, another bill was signed into law that restricted the growth of wind energy. FirstEnergy Corporation had backed the freeze.
According to records obtained by Checks and Balances Project (C&BP), Randazzo bought the property through a company he owned called Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio. The company had been on a property buying spree from January 2013. Randazzo was a member of the Nominating Committee of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio from 2013-2018. But the properties were not disclosed in financial disclosure statements, except one in 2014.
Last Thursday, FirstEnergy Corp. admitted in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing to paying $4 million in early 2019 to end a consulting contract that had been in place since 2013. The contract had been with “an entity associated with an individual who subsequently was appointed to a full-time role as an Ohio government official directly involved in regulating the Ohio companies, including with respect to distribution rates.”
That company appears to be the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio whose owner was Randazzo. While Randazzo may not have technically been required to list the properties, the use of the LLC no doubt raises transparency concerns.
Here are three more that we found in Franklin County Auditor Records:
A fifth property is also owned by the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio. It is in Randazzo’s hometown of Cuyahoga Falls. Although purchase date is unclear, here is a link to an Ohio EPA Environmental Covenant referring to a Front Street property owned by the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio. The document states: “Owner Contact & Phone Number/Unknown.
The Sustainability Funding Alliance was created as a nonprofit in 2009. By 2013, it had been changed to a corporation or-profit organization.
Randazzo had identified himself the “Owner” of the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio in financial disclosure documents, but he never disclosed the properties — except one, located at 492 E. Mound St in Columbus. See his Ohio Ethics Commission disclosures here for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Two years ago, C&BP uncovered 2017 emails between Randazzo, then a partner at McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, showing the strong sway Randazzo had on Ohio wind-energy foe Rep. Bill Seitz’s efforts to keep the state’s strict property line setbacks in place.
Randazzo should answer why these five properties were not listed on his Financial Disclosure forms. Were the funds to buy the properties provided by FirstEnergy? But with Friday’s announcement by Gov. DeWine that Randazzo had resigned as chair of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, it appears that the Randazzler has reached the end of the line.
We think, however, that there is more corruption in Ohio government waiting to be swept out.
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Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.
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