Democrat Cranley pledges to fire PUCO if elected governor

November 4, 2021 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley said Thursday he will fire Ohio’s entire utility regulatory board if elected, part of changes he proposes to curb future abuses amid a sweeping, unresolved bribery scandal.

The Cincinnati mayor called for sitting members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to be replaced by those with three years’ experience in a relevant field and proof that they have no financial ties to the electric, gas and other utility companies they regulate.

“The people of Ohio lost faith in their elected leaders,” he said. “Job one of Ohio’s next governor is to restore public trust. I will do that by cleaning house at the PUCO to restore faith in Ohio’s leaders.”

The announcement came two days after the election of Cranley’s successor as mayor, Aftab Pureval. It was the first major policy proposal in his run to replace Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, which he announced in August. Cranley faces Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in next year’s Democratic primary.


Whaley unveiled her own anti-corruption platform in June, pledging to create a bipartisan Public Accountability Commission to investigate questionable ethics, bolster funding to existing state ethics agencies and set new ethical standards for the governor and their appointees. She said she would also work with the Legislature to close dark money loopholes.

Both proposals come as the actions of DeWine’s appointee as commission chair, Sam Randazzo, have been under scrutiny in a federal probe that alleges former Republican House Speaker Larry Householder orchestrated a $60 million bribery scheme that included the passage of a nuclear plant bailout bill that benefited Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.

As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, FirstEnergy said it paid Randazzo $22 million over the years, including the $4.3 million for future work on FirstEnergy’s behalf that rolled in just before DeWine made him head of the commission.


Householder has denied wrongdoing, and Randazzo has said he executed his duties as commission chair “conscientiously, lawfully, and mindful of striking the right balance between competing interests.” DeWine, who was warned Randazzo had FirstEnergy ties, has stood by the appointment.

“I guess the political season is starting,” DeWine told reporters at an afternoon news briefing. “I’m not going to fire them. These comments are political comments.”

Cranley’s proposal would require utility commissioners to have at least three years of experience in one or more relevant fields: economics, law, finance, accounting, engineering, physical or natural sciences, natural resources, or environmental studies.

Under his plan, commission appointees would be precluded from holding stocks or bonds in a regulated utility or receiving any compensation, direct or indirect, from a regulated utility for at least a year. Those people would also have to pass a background check.


Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.