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Published: August 3, 2013 print this article Print save this article Save email this article Email ENLARGE TEXT increase font decrease font

Monetary inducement

As a resident of Butler County, I have received a mail package from the Butler County Commissioners. It included a Butler County official envelope with a county seal and U.S. postage paid in Cleveland, Ohio; a letter signed by the three commissioners, the brochure of FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. with the county seal, and a First Energy enrollment form, also bearing the county seal.
According to its brochure, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. introduced itself as an unregulated competitive subsidiary of First Energy Corp. with more than 2.5 million residential and business customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland and Michigan.
I believe Butler County government is receiving monetary inducement from this energy company because it’s stated clearly in the letter that “for every resident who enrolls, FirstEnergy Solutions makes a modest contribution to the county and your municipality, which helps support our budgets and operation.” Also, it states “Butler County contracts its electricity generation through FirstEnergy Solutions.” Such a statement is not clarified and probably is misleading to county residents.
Is this as exchange or condition that Butler County “sold out” its county seal to FirstEnergy Solutions? Apparently, the company is allowed to use the county seal on its enrollment forms and brochures. Although the use of official seals is an old English tradition, the indication of authentic official documents still exits.
It seems improper that the Butler County seal became tangled with a commercial company to promote commercial activities. It appears that FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. has an unfair economic advantage in the energy market in Butler County.
It is of importance that board chairman Bill McCarrier seek legal advice from the county attorney — because it doesn’t mean this deal is right even if the county didn’t spend a dime on it. He should have a clear legal interpretation of this phenomenon as well as a concern of risk management.
I feel it outrageous that a big company can manipulate the county government and county residents in such a way by using generic official county stationery and composing county official letterhead in its commercial activity. Where is our county’s “sovereignty”? I also wonder whether or not the county government has a right to release county residents’ information to assist some commercial activity. If this arrangement is found improper or wrong, the county should order the company to immediately stop using our county seal.

Qin Eisler, M.D., Ph.D.
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