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Editorials

Watchdog's lapdog?

10/30/03


Jerome Solove, chairman of the Ohio Con sumers' Counsel Governing Board, says there is no need to fire Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren, because Tongren engaged in no improprieties.

Solove apparently has a very forgiving definition of "impropriety."

Tongren, ostensibly the state's advocate for residential utility ratepayers, has blatantly abused the public trust. That fact is further verified every time Tongren and his staff open their mouths.

First, Tongren kept under wraps a consultant's finding that FirstEnergy Corp. should receive about $2.6 billion for its "stranded costs" as part of deregulation. Of course, FirstEnergy got much more - $8.7 billion, including $6.9 billion for stranded costs. Then, when the opportunity arose to make the report public, Tongren's office shredded it instead.

Now it comes to light that a top aide urged Tongren to keep the year-old report despite a new file-shredding policy mandating its destruction, and that Tongren nixed testimony from an energy consultant who was prepared to challenge FirstEnergy's cost estimates. Finally, Tongren admitted that he knew of the new shredding policy all along.

Those are major-league improprieties.

If Tongren had used the consultant's findings instead of burying them, FirstEnergy would have had a harder time picking consumers' pockets. But a secretive "watchdog" and a sticky-fingered utility make for a bad combination. They like covert deals and expediency too much.

In the public interest, Tongren has to go. And if Solove can't find the impropriety in Tongren's public-servant charade, Solove should follow him out the door.


2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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