The next day in Akron FirstEnergy agreed to a $ 230 million fine for bribing state officials, former CEO Chuck Jones says he and the company haven’t done anything wrong.
“Mr. Jones has not participated in any illegal activity or violated any of the policies of FirstEnergy,” said Jones representative Allan Ripp. “Jones did not make or authorize any payment of money to a public official in exchange for an official act.”
Jones has not been charged with any crime. However, it featured prominently in FirstEnergy’s 49-page deferred lawsuit settlement under the title “Executive 1”.
Federal investigators allege that FirstEnergy executives hand delivered $ 400,000 to former House Speaker Larry Householder at a meeting in October 2018. Subsequently, Householder texted Jones: “$ 400,000… thank you,” according to federal documents.
FirstEnergy fired Jones and two other executives in October 2020, claiming that executives violated company policies and code of conduct over a $ 4.3 million payment made to the company of the future chairman of the Ohio Public Services Commission, Sam Randazzo.
Federal investigators allege Jones and another executive pushed for Randazzo’s appointment to PUCO, which oversees utilities like FirstEnergy. Randazzo, in turn, helped FirstEnergy with the wording of Bill 6, which included a billion dollar bailout for two nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, and the state budget.
After Bill 6 was passed, Jones sent in a photoshopped version of Mount Rushmore, featuring the faces of Randazzo and others. The caption read: “HB 6 F *** ANYBODY WHO WE ARE.”
But Jones, in his statement, says he hasn’t done anything wrong. All donations were protected by the First Amendment.
“Mr. Jones is very disappointed that FirstEnergy wrongly involves so many hard-working and dedicated employees in wrongdoing who are committed to implementing the stated goals of the board of directors,” the statement said.
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.