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Morning Headlines: FirstEnergy to Pay $230M in Agreement in Ohio Bribery Case, Ex-Utility Regulator Had Outsized Role in Scheme

A photo of FirstEnergy's headquarters in Akron.
TIM RUDELL
/
WKSU
The energy giant at the center of a $60 million bribery scheme in Ohio has admitted to using dark money groups to fund the effort. The company has been accused by authorities of secretly funding a $60 million bribery scheme to help win legislative passage of a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants operated by a wholly-owned subsidiary when the bill was passed in July 2019.

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, July 23:

  • FirstEnergy to pay $230M in agreement in Ohio bribery case
  • Ex-utility regulator had outsized role in scheme
  • Akron attracts fewer police prospects
  • Grant will restore service between Houston and CAK
  • Columbus schools to require masks
  • Housing boom continues
  • Cleveland Urban League will use federal grant to support small businesses
  • Cleveland Indians reportedly have picked a new name
  • Ohio doctor convicted of overprescribing painkillers, fraud

FirstEnergy to pay $230M in agreement in Ohio bribery case
(AP) — The energy giant at the center of a $60 million bribery scheme in Ohio has admitted to using dark money groups to fund the effort, and agreed to pay $230 million and other conditions so prosecutors won’t forge ahead with a criminal case against the company. Acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel said at a press conference Thursday it is the largest settlement his office has secured that anyone can remember. The company has been accused by authorities of secretly funding a $60 million bribery scheme to help win legislative passage of a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants operated by a wholly-owned subsidiary when the bill was passed in July 2019.

Ex-utility regulator had outsized role in scheme
(AP) — A statement of facts included with FirstEnergy Corp.'s deferred prosecution agreement sheds new light on the role a former utility regulator played in a $60 million corruption scheme secretly funded by the company. The statement provides new details on a $4.3 million payment made to Sam Randazzo to end a purported consulting contract shortly before Gov. Mike DeWine nominated him as the next chair of the powerful Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in early 2019. And it provides details on what Randazzo did for FirstEnergy after becoming chair. No charges have been filed against him. Gov. Mike DeWine in a statement last night denied any knowledge of wrongdoing by his former pick for the PUCO.

Akron attracts fewer police prospects
(Beacon Journal) -- The city of Akron is attracting less interest in its police force. The Beacon Journal reports a recruiting effort that began in April brought in just over 750 applications, down from nearly 1,500 during a similar push in 2019, when the department brought back its police academy and started paying cadets during their training. However, the pool of candidates is more diverse than two years ago. Non-white applicants made up 40% of the potential officers in 2021, compared to 36% in 2019. Akron police want to hire 50 police officers over the next two years.

Grant will restore service between Houston and CAK
(Beacon Journal) -- The Akron-Canton Airport is continuing its effort to rebound from the pandemic. The airport is getting an $850,000 federal grant to bring back service to Houston. The Beacon Journal reports the grant will be offered to United Airlines to make up for any loss in revenue as service is resumed. Last month, startup Breeze Airways announced it was adding service from Akron-Canton to Tampa, Florida, and will add flights to New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina by the end of this month.

Columbus schools to require masks
(WOSU) -- The state’s largest school district says it will be requiring face masks in schools and on buses for the upcoming. WOSU reports the requirement applies to both vaccinated and non-vaccinated students at Columbus City Schools, as well as staff and at administrative sites. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced this week that masks will be required for everyone for at least the first five weeks of the school year. On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended masks in schools for everybody over the age of 2, regardless if they've received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Housing boom continues
(Cleveland.com) -- Ohio is continuing to see a booming housing market. Cleveland.com reports home sales in Ohio were up more than 10% in June compared to the same month in 2020, with more than 16,500 houses and condominiums sold last month. The average sales price was just over $255,000, an increase from last month and up nearly 18% from the same month in 2020.

Cleveland Urban League will use federal grant to support small businesses
(WKSU) -- The Urban League of Greater Cleveland is getting $1.8 million in federal CARES Act funding. It will be used to administer a Revolving Loan Fund and provide gap financing to small businesses in Cuyahoga County who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Ohio Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown say the grant is expected to retain 300 jobs, create 300 new jobs, and help generate over $3 million in private investment for the community.

Cleveland Indians reportedly have picked a new name
(Cleveland.com) -- Cleveland’s baseball team has reportedly picked its new name. But Cleveland.com reports there’s no word on when it will be revealed. In June, the team said it has been considering a list of about 1,100 names. This month marks one year since the team announced it was exploring dropping the Indians nickname at the height of the racial justice movement. Owner Paul Dolan said the goal was the 2022 season.

Ohio doctor convicted of overprescribing painkillers, fraud
(AP) — An Ohio doctor who was a vocal critic of the crackdown on opioid pills for chronic pain patients has been convicted of overprescribing painkillers to 14 people. A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Dr. William Bauer of Port Clinton on charges of distributing controlled substances and healthcare fraud. Prosecutors say Bauer prescribed dangerous drug combinations and high doses of addictive narcotics that weren’t medically necessary. Bauer testified that the medication allowed patients to resume some normal activities.