A spokesperson for FirstEnergy said today that Vice President of Utility Operations John Skory left the utility after a violation of company policy.
“John Skory, formerly vice president of Utility Operations for FirstEnergy, is no longer with the company following a violation of company policy,” Jennifer Young, a manager of external affairs for FirstEnergy, told the Energy and Policy Institute in an email this morning.
“Since this is a personnel matter, we’re unable to share further specific information, though I can confirm this is not related to HB 6,” Young said.
House Bill 6 is at the center of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio. A number of FirstEnergy executives and directors have left the company amidst the fallout from the investigation, including former CEOs Charles Jones and Steven Strah.
The 2019 Ohio energy law included a now-repealed $1 billion ratepayer bailout of two nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), a then-bankrupt FirstEnergy subsidiary that later emerged as a separate new company now called Energy Harbor. HB 6 also rolled back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy standards for electric utilities, bailed out several coal plants connected to FES, and included a controversial “decoupling” provision that locked in FirstEnergy’s annual earnings in Ohio at ratepayers’ expense.
FirstEnergy reached a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors last summer, and agreed to a statement of facts in which it admitted that it paid approximately $60 million to influence the actions of indicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder on HB 6. The company also admitted it paid $4.3 million to influence former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Samuel Randazzo’s actions on HB 6 and other matters.
Randazzo, who resigned from PUCO after the FBI raided his home, has not been named or charged in the investigation but is a defendant in a related civil lawsuit filed by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Skory has also not been named or charged in the federal investigation.
Skory’s name, however, did appear on copies of once “confidential” Cleveland Electric Illuminating (CEI) Company leases with DJM Lakeside LLC that PUCO released last year as “supporting documents” used in an HB 6-related audit of the FirstEnergy Delivery Capitalization Rider.
Skory’s name appeared on a 2018 amendment to CEI’s lease with DJM LLC
Skory’s name and signature also appeared on a 2015 lease agreement
“The audit report examined expenses identified by FirstEnergy Corp. in its Feb. 18, 2021 report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to be improperly classified, misallocated, or lacked supporting documentation,” PUCO said in a press release announcing the audit, which recommended millions of dollars in related refunds to FirstEnergy’s Ohio customers.
FirstEnergy attributed the initial discovery of the improper payments to an internal investigation launched by the company in response to the Householder case.
The audit report examined improper payments FirstEnergy made to entities associated with Householder, Randazzo, and Cleveland-area businessman Tony George. DJM Lakeside was one of a dozen George entities that received payments flagged by the audit.
The scope of the audit did not include determining why the payments were improper.
FirstEnergy controller Tracy Ashton later identified Tony George as the unnamed “Individual B” described in a statement of facts the company agreed to as part of its deferred prosecution agreement.
Cleveland.com reported that George acted as “intermediary between top FirstEnergy officials and now-indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder.”
Ashton identified George during a deposition in a civil lawsuit filed by FirstEnergy shareholders in response to the HB 6 scandal.
George has not been named or charged in the federal investigation and previously told Cleveland.com that any payments his companies billed FirstEnergy for were proper.
“As I noted previously, we’re unable to share further information about this personnel matter,” Young said when asked if Skory’s departure and violation were related to George.
FirstEnergy’s statement that Skory’s exit from the company is not related to HB 6 raises new and unanswered questions about what exactly Skory did that violated company policy.
Skory’s departure occurred sometime in the past two weeks. FirstEnergy’s website still lists Skory as a member of the company’s leadership on a page marked as last updated on October 20, 2022.
Skory’s career with the company began in 1977 when he joined CEI, according to a bio found online.
Top image is a photo by the Energy and Policy Institute of the W.H. Sammis coal-fired power plant once owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, and now slated for closure