Fallout from Ohio’s H.B. 6 scandal reaches FirstEnergy C suite

November 3, 2020, 9:28AMNuclear News

Chuck Jones, former FirstEnergy CEO

Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corporation—former parent of Energy Harbor, the owner of Ohio’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants—announced on October 29 that it has fired its chief executive officer, Charles “Chuck” Jones, as well as its senior vice president of product development, marketing, and branding and its senior vice president of external affairs.

The actions, according to FirstEnergy, were prompted by an internal company review undertaken in response to the scandal surrounding H.B. 6—the now infamous legislation signed into law last year by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine that includes subsidies for Davis-Besse and Perry and that is at the heart of an alleged multi-million dollar racketeering and corruption scheme aimed at guaranteeing its passage.

In the announcement, FirstEnergy said only that its review “determined that these executives violated certain FirstEnergy policies and its code of conduct.” Replacing Jones is Steven E. Strah, who had been the firm’s president.

Painful reminder: Federal prosecutors on July 21 arrested then Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder, and four lobbyists and political consultants for their involvement in the scheme.

According to the criminal complaint, from March 2017 to March of this year Householder and his associates received more than $60 million from “Company A entities”—reportedly First Energy and affiliates—through Generation Now, an ostensibly tax-exempt social welfare organization. In exchange for the payments, the complaint said, “Householder’s Enterprise” helped pass H.B. 6 and then worked to “corruptly ensure” that the bill would not be repealed by a ballot initiative organized by H.B. 6 opponents.

The Justice Department has yet to file any charges against either FirstEnergy or Energy Harbor (previously FirstEnergy Solutions) in the matter.

Meanwhile: Also on October 29, two of Householder’s associates charged in the corruption probe—Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist, and Jeffrey Longstreth, a consultant—struck plea deals with prosecutors, according to a Columbus Dispatch report. Both individuals plan to plead guilty to involvement in a RICO conspiracy, the report said.

Responding to this latest development, Ohio Attorney General David Yost—who filed a civil lawsuit on September 23 to prevent Energy Harbor from receiving any of the public funds approved under H.B. 6—tweeted, “Today’s guilty pleas by Longstreth & Cespedes move the HB6 racketeering scandal from allegation to admitted fact. The only remaining question: ‘Who else?’ My team, including a forensic accountant, is going through the first batch of documents in our civil racketeering lawsuit.”

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