Morning Headlines: Ohio House Speaker, 4 Others Arrested in Bribery Case; FirstEnergy Stocks Tumble

Jul 22, 2020

Here are your morning headlinesfor Wednesday, July 22:

  • Ohio House Speaker, 4 others arrested in $60M bribery case
  • FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor stocks tumble following Householder arrest
  • Ohio elected officials call for Householder to resign
  • Ohio coronavirus cases fall below daily average, deaths on the rise
  • Akron to receive EPA funds for Gorge Dam removal
  • Ohio Department of Health, EPA to test wastewater locally for COVID-19
  • Cuyahoga Co. to place library tax increase on fall ballot
  • Indians players, owner meet to discuss potential name change

Ohio House Speaker, 4 others arrested in $60M bribery case
The powerful Republican speaker of the Ohio House and four associates were arrested Tuesday in a $60 million federal bribery case connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of Ohio's two nuclear power plants. FBI agents raided Speaker Larry Householder's Perry County farm and later released an 80 page affidavit detailing the funneling of funds from an unnamed utility to Householder over three years. The affidavit claims a company set-up by Householder used a slush fund from the utility to help pass last year’s $1.5 billion nuclear bailout. While U.S. Attorney David DeVillers declined to name the company, the criminal complaint points to Akron-based FirstEnergy and its then fully owned subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions, now known as Energy Harbor, which operates Ohio’s two nuclear power plants. Gov. Mike DeWine is among a growing chorus from both parties calling on Householder to resign immediately. In a statement Energy Harbor said it is reviewing the complaint and will cooperate fully with the government’s investigation.

FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor stocks tumble following Householder arrest
Akron-based FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor’s stock prices plummeted Tuesday following Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest. FirstEnergy stock price dropped 17 percent to around $34 a share before the close. Energy Harbor shares fell 21% to $28 a share. FirstEnergy was the original operator of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants until its subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions, filed for bankruptcy. It renamed itself Energy Harbor, which operates independently. Neither company has so far been charged in connection to the bribery case.

Ohio elected officials call for Householder to resign
Ohio’s elected officials are calling on Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to resign amid his arrest on bribery charges. Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Attorney General Dave Yost all issued statements urging Householder to step down. However, the GOP House leadership team stopped short of calling for a resignation. In a statement, Householder’s top colleagues said they are “shocked to learn of the charges and are reviewing the allegations.” House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes of Akron also called for Householder to resign immediately. Some of her Democrats provided votes to help elect Householder speaker.

Ohio coronavirus cases fall below daily average, deaths on the rise
The roughly 1,000 new coronavirus cases confirmed Tuesday in Ohio was below this month’s daily average, but deaths are climbing. There were 30 reported Tuesday, which nearly doubles July’s daily average of 17. Ohio also reported 126 new coronavirus hospitalizations, outpacing the recent daily average of 90 hospitalizations. ICU admissions grew by 23. Gov. Mike DeWine was scheduled to hold his regular briefing about the virus Tuesday, but pushed it to Wednesday following the arrest of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and an afternoon press conference by the U.S. Attorney's office announcing the charges.

Akron to receive EPA funds for Gorge Dam removal
The city of Akron is getting a million dollar grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help pay for removing the Gorge Dam from the Cuyahoga River. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the funds during a visit to Akron Tuesday. Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan says they’ll continue to work with stakeholders and partners to help secure the rest of the funds for the $65 million project.  The first step is to haul away sediment built up behind the dam. Horrigan expects that to begin early next year. Removal of the dam will improve the river’s water quality and allow recreation in the Gorge.

Ohio Department of Health, EPA to test wastewater locally for COVID-19
Several state and federal agencies are partnering to test the wastewater in Cleveland for signs of COVID-19. Led by the Ohio Department of Health and the EPA, the study will look in wastewater for coronavirus fragments in genetic material called RNA. Rebecca Fugitt with the Department of Health says RNA from the virus can show up in fecal matter 3-7 days before there are symptoms. Fugitt says it’s not unusual to test wastewater for viruses. She says some communities have used this method to test for opioids or polio. The study is funded by $2 million from the federal coronavirus relief fund called the CARES Act.

Cuyahoga Co. to place library tax increase on fall ballot
Cuyahoga County voters will decide a tax increase for the county public library system this November. County Council on Tuesday approved placing the 1-mill tax increase on the fall ballot. It would cost the average homeowner an additional $35 a year. The increase would raise $18 million more per year for library operations that it says it needs to avoid cuts.  

Indians players, owner meet to discuss potential name change
Players from the Cleveland Indians have met with owner Paul Dolan to discuss a potential name change for the team. The club has been called the Indians for the past 105 years. Manager Terry Francona said the group had an “honest” conversation and he came away proud of how it was handled by both sides. Francona stressed that nothing has been resolved on the topic. The franchise recently announced it was in the early stages of meeting with the community “to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.” The Indians’ move coincided with the recent decision by Washington’s NFL team to drop the name Redskins.