AK’s Wardrop critical of Taft in letterBy Eric
Robinette, Journal Staff Writer, E-mail: email@example.com
In a tersely worded letter, AK Steel Corp. CEO Richard Wardrop
has criticized Gov. Bob Taft for “endorsing” a competitor’s steel to
one of AK’s longtime customers.
Taft’s administration may be moving quickly to address Wardrop,
but AK officials apparently remain none too pleased.
In the letter, dated Thursday and released to The Journal Friday
by AK, Wardrop wrote, “It was inconsiderate and thoughtless of you
to endorse a competitor’s steel over ours. At the least, it shows a
true lack of understanding and support for the men and women of AK
Steel in Ohio. ...”
At issue was Taft’s trade mission to Mexico last month, when he
visited Lithonia Lighting in Monterrey, with a representative of ISG
Steel of Cleveland, one of AK’s competitors.
Wrote Wardrop: “But this wasn’t just any sales call, Mr.
Governor, because Lithonia happens to be one of AK Steel’s most
important and longtime customers, and we’ve served their Monterrey
plant for years. ... By accompanying a representative of our
competitor to a meeting with one (of) our established Mexican
customers, you have endorsed their steel over ours.”
Taft’s press secretary, Orest Holubec, said Friday he had seen
the letter but Taft had not, although the governor would
“absolutely” respond to the letter.
Holubec contacted The Journal later in the day to say that when
Taft went to Mexico, he was not aware that AK was a supplier of
Lithonia Lighting, and Taft would tell Lithonia that AK was the
Holubec also said that Taft would phone Wardrop to explain the
AK’s vice president of public affairs, Alan McCoy, responded, “I
don’t think it changes our opinion that this administration is not
in tune with AK or its employees.”
In the letter, Wardrop takes Taft to task for pledging $12
million in taxpayer money to bail out West Virginia-based
Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, while West Virginia allowed another
bankrupt steel company, Weirton Steel, to exceed water pollution
Meanwhile, Wardrop wrote, Taft’s administration continues to
pursue AK “over minor alleged pollution issues dating back to the
1980s and continues to seek millions in fines from us.”
McCoy said Taft’s actions were especially troubling in light of
the fact that AK has considered shutting down the hot end of
Middletown Works because it would be too expensive to meet
environmental regulations. If that happens, some 1,000 jobs might be
lost, McCoy has said.
The letter concludes: “When is your administration going to stop
poking a stick into the eyes of AK Steel employees and their
families in Middletown and across Ohio? Or should our Middletown
Works employees conclude that your administration is only concerned
about out-of-state or bankrupt steel companies?”
McCoy said that AK had tried to contact the governor’s office on
this matter previously and received no response.
He also said the issues about the governor and bankrupt steel
companies stem from the fact that AK was the lone company that
opposed tariffs passed last year that froze free market forces and
kept bankrupt steel companies afloat, freezing off imports and
dropping the price of steel.
State Sen. Scott Nein, R-Middletown, aware of the letter, on
Friday said he has “made it clear” in Columbus that he didn’t think
it was right for the administration to support, or appear to
support, one steel business at the expense of another.
“It’s disturbing to me, but there were a lot of points raised in
that letter,” Nein said.
When asked what he thought Wardrop’s letter might accomplish,
McCoy said, “I would hope the Taft administration would reflect
carefully on the impact its actions have on 6,000 employees we have