Agency to examine utility spending on stadium naming rights


CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio’s utility commission said Wednesday it has asked an independent auditor to examine whether FirstEnergy Corp. used customer money to pay for naming rights at the stadium where the Cleveland Browns play.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio announcement follows a request on Tuesday by Democratic lawmakers. They want FirstEnergy’s name removed because of its involvement in secretly funding a $60 million bribery scheme to win legislative approval in 2019 for a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants operated by a wholly-owned FirstEnergy subsidiary.

Akron-based FirstEnergy in 2013 agreed to pay $102 million over 17 years for naming rights to the stadium that was called Cleveland Browns Stadium when it opened in 1999, cleveland.com reported.

FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said the corporation pays for the naming rights deal and not customers of its three Ohio electric companies.

PUCO spokesperson Matt Schilling said utilities are not allowed to use customer money to pay for promotional advertising.

A spokesperson for the Browns declined to comment on Tuesday.