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Ohioans deserve better from their public officials

Monday, Ohioans learned another significant figure has been indicted in the bribery scandal that exposed the dark side of Columbus politics.

Former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Sam Randazzo was indicted by a federal grand jury on bribery and embezzlement charges for his alleged part in what federal prosecutors have called the largest political bribery scandal in Buckeye State history.

As part of an agreement, FirstEnergy has said two of its former executives paid Randazzo

$4.3 million ahead of his appointment by Gov. Mike DeWine to be the state regulator overseeing FirstEnergy. Randazzo allegedly was part of a plot that also included former House Speaker Larry Householder (who has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison) and former state GOP Chairman Matt Borges (who got five years).

FirstEnergy’s efforts eventually yielded a $1.3 billion bailout.

Because of the deal struck that FirstEnergy would admit wrongdoing and commit to paying a $230 million fine, prosecutors appear to have a great deal of evidence against Randazzo, including texts along the lines of: “I spoke with Sam today. Told me 2024 issue will be handled next Thursday.” According to a report by the Ohio Capital Journal, the following Thursday, the PUCO decision included language alleviating the 2024 issue.

Randazzo likely was one of a few people in Columbus who were all too eager to put their own interests ahead of Ohioans and sell out to the highest bidder despite it being taxpayer dollars at stake.

“Public officials — whether elected or appointed — are tasked with upholding the highest level of integrity in their duties and responsibilities. Such service to the public must be selfless, not selfish,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker said Monday.

Should he be found guilty, Randazzo, too, must face a harsh sentence for his intentional harming of Ohioans in the name of filling his own pockets.

Meanwhile, Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Maureen Willis was correct when she told the Capital Journal this is an important step.

“It underscores the need for near-term reform of the PUCO selection process that led to his appointment as chair of the PUCO,” she said. “… Ohioans deserve better from the public officials in this state.”

Indeed. Though it is no surprise they are not eager to shine a brighter light on a government and bureaucracy that was obviously crawling with corruption, lawmakers must nevertheless be determined to do the right thing and implement greater oversight and reforms.

editorial@vindy.com

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