CLEVELAND (AP) — FirstEnergy Corp. did not misuse customer money to pay for naming rights at the stadium where the Cleveland Browns play, a state-commissioned audit released Friday has found.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ordered the review at the request of Democratic state lawmakers seeking to strip the Akron-based utility giant’s name from the stadium because of its involvement in secretly funding a $60 million bribery scheme tied to passing a $1 billion nuclear bailout bill.
The audit, conducted by South Carolina-based Blue Ridge Consulting Services, found FirstEnergy didn’t use money from its electricity customers at Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co, Ohio Edison, and Toledo Edison to pay for the naming rights, cleveland.com reported.
Auditors said FirstEnergy “eliminated the possibility” by maintaining books separate from the three utility companies.
FirstEnergy agreed in 2013 to pay $102 million over 17 years for naming rights to the stadium, which was called Cleveland Browns Stadium when it opened in 1999.
Democratic state Rep. Jeff Crossman, of Parma, tweeted that the Browns “should still do right by our community and work to remove this stain on our tax payer funded stadium.” He called the PUCO “broken.”
FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Young said in a statement that the company will continue supporting its communities through sponsorship of civic, athletic and arts organizations.