October 20, 2003
James Petro, Attorney General
State of Ohio
30 E. Broad St., 17th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-3428
Dear Attorney General Petro:
I am writing to ask you to intervene to help bring the scandal at the Ohio Consumers' Counsel to a prompt conclusion.
Since the Office of Consumers' Counsel was created over a quarter-century ago, the Ohio Attorney General has carried the responsibility for appointing members of the Counsel's Governing Board, to which the Ohio Consumers' Counsel is statutorily accountable. The Attorney General is the popularly-elected official closest to the agency.
It appears that neither the Consumers' Counsel nor the chair of the Governing Board understands the situation they are in, and they could benefit from your guidance.
On Friday, the news broke that the Consumers' Counsel had negotiated a deal to give FirstEnergy twice the stranded costs they were entitled to, and then destroyed the consultant's research that could have exposed what he had done. As a result, the average family has paid and is still paying $15 - $20 a month more than necessary for 'stranded costs' on nuclear power plants.
Since then, Ohio Citizen Action has called for the Governing Board to fire the Consumers' Counsel, Ohio Senate Energy Committee Chairman Bob Spada reportedly said he was disturbed at the "horrendous difference" between the consultants' estimate and what FirstEnergy received in its settlement, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer has editorialized that the Counsel "should be replaced -- now."
The Governing Board chair promised that the board would "consider the issues raised." Unfortunately, without even beginning an inquiry, he said he "wholeheartedly" supported the Counsel, concluding "I do however continue in my confidence with Mr. Tongren's and his staff's capability, integrity and dedication."
For his part, the Consumers' Counsel issued a statement at 4:57 PM Sunday, saying in part "I stand by the actions this office took during the electric restructuring process." There is no acknowledgement anywhere in the statement that he understands the gravity of what he did.
Clearly, the Consumers' Counsel cannot carry out his sole mission -- to "advocate for Ohio’s residential utility consumers" -- if Ohio's residential utility consumers don't trust him.
Cleveland Program Director
Ohio Citizen Action