October 17, 2003
Jerome Solove, Board Chairman
Ohio Office of Consumers' Counsel
Jerome Solove Development
141 East Town Street, Suite 101
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Dear Mr. Solove,
On behalf of our 100,000 members statewide, Ohio Citizen Action calls on you to convene an emergency meeting of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel Board to fire Consumers' Counsel Robert Tongren. He should immediately be dismissed because he 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.
The Office of Consumers' Counsel has only one job -- to protect customers against excessive utility bills. The $9 billion deal violated that obligation. The deal with FirstEnergy forced the average family to pay about $30.00 a month in stranded costs for five years, when the report by the consultant, LaCapra Associates, would have sliced that amount by $15-$20 a month, with stranded costs pegged at between $2 billion and $4 billion, according to today's newspaper reports.
While the FirstEnergy deal is certainly the most expensive for consumers and is also the only instance in which we know of where relevant documents have been destroyed, ratepayers have plenty of other experience and dissatisfaction with Rob Tongren's dealmaking.
In 1995, for instance, approximately 15,000 customers signed pink slips calling for Tongren's firing because of the awful deal he signed with Columbia Gas allowing them to charge a warm weather penalty to customers' bills when winter temperatures were higher than average. After public outrage, Columbia Gas dropped the billing scam, while Tongren continued to defend it.
In addition, as director of the agency, Tongren cannot simply blame his staff for changing document retention policies. He is responsible. We question whether state agencies can simply make casual, seemingly random, decisions about how long to keep such documents. We also request an opportunity to do an inspection of all Office of Consumers' Counsel files to find out if, in fact, other documents are being kept for more than a year.
We look forward to your quick response.
Cleveland Program Director
614 West Superior Avenue, Suite 1200
Cleveland, Ohio 44113