The Cincinnati Enquirer
fighting with the state of Ohio in the courtroom, AK Steel
Corp. has taken the battle to the governor's mansion.
The Middletown-based steel company accused Gov. Bob Taft of
helping a competitor to steal a customer. In a full-page ad in
Sunday's Enquirer, AK Steel said the governor, while on
a trade mission to Mexico in May, accompanied a representative
of competitor International Steel Group to visit Lithonia
Lighting, a long-time customer of AK Steel.
"This is a customer that we've served in this country for
decades, and in Mexico for four or five years, and we have a
good relationship," Alan McCoy, vice president of public
affairs of AK Steel, said Monday. "It simply is inappropriate
in our opinion for a governor to accompany one of our
He said the company found out about the visit when Lithonia
called AK Steel to report the visit. "Such ceremonial
activities are given a lot of weight and influence in Mexico.
It certainly created the impression of an endorsement to our
competitor," he said, adding that AK Steel hasn't lost any
business because of the governor's visit.
AK Steel has about 10,000 employees and four plants in
Ohio. ISG is headquartered near Cleveland, and was formed from
the assets of bankrupt steel makers LTV and Bethlehem. It has
no plants in Ohio.
McCoy called this "the last straw" in a fight over the
company's alleged environmental violations. AK Steel refuses
to pay fines over pollution of Dick's Creek in Butler County,
and the case is slated for trial later this year. On Monday,
AK Steel also accused the Ohio EPA of slanting environmental
test results to make the violations look worse.
Gov. Taft's spokesman, Orest Holubec, said the governor and
AK Steel CEO Richard Wardrop Jr. spoke last week about the
The governor "let the CEO know that when he went to the
meeting, he didn't know that AK Steel was a primary supplier
for Lithonia and he said it was a mistake. We have contacted
Lithonia in the meantime and endorsed AK Steel as a primary
supplier of steel for the company," he said.
"The governor knows how important AK Steel is to the state
and to the regions where it operates, but they do have
environmental problems that need to be resolved, and the
governor feels that Ohio EPA and the governor's office have
worked in good faith to try to help them resolve these
Despite last week's conversation, AK Steel chose to take
out the ad for the sake of its employees, retirees, customers
and suppliers. "Many of them were not aware of this issue, so
we wanted to bring it to their attention," McCoy said.
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