PUCO auditors recommend $6.6 million paid to Tony George be returned to ratepayers
In an internal review in the wake of the HB6 scandal, FirstEnergy flagged some $10.7 million it paid to businesses connected to Tony George for advertising, billboards and a storage facility lease as problematic, either for being improperly classified or poorly documented or misallocated, Cleveland.com first reported locally today.
A third party auditor that reviewed the documents for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio as part of the commission's investigation has recommended that $6.6 million of that be refunded to customers, since FirstEnergy charged them for the expenses. Some came in base rate changes, some were recouped in a "demand side management and energy efficiency rider" fee.
George has been a longtime fixture on the FirstEnergy front and was connected to 12 of the vendors FirstEnergy flagged for review, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
"In the course of our internal investigation, FirstEnergy identified certain vendor transactions, which in some instances extended back 10 years or more, that were either improperly classified, misallocated to certain of our utilities and transmission companies or lacked proper supporting documentation," FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said. "We are committed to working with the PUCO to address the vendor transactions through customer refunds."
A PUCO judge will take the audit and recommendations into account before deciding on possible refunds.
FirstEnergy flagged $24 million in total payments, including millions that went to Sam Randazzo and entities associated with or controlled by Larry Householder. The audit found $17.8 million of that was not passed on to ratepayers.
Cleveland.com did a deeper dive into FirstEnergy's payments to George here
, including $47,000 the company paid him to work on creating a FirstEnergy credit card. FirstEnergy didn't indicate in its review why it flagged the George payments.