Two of the three “consumer” members Gov. Kasich appointed to the Ohio State Medical Board are involved with a business so predatory that it’s banned in many states.
Consumer member Donald Kenney Sr. owns the anti-consumer company; consumer member Mike Gonidakis lobbies on its behalf.
The company is American Power & Light which Kenney founded in 2003. Kenney also owns lots of apartment complexes and he buys electricity and water from the utilities, then jacks up the prices and saddles his renters with above-market rates and high late fees.
A 2013 investigation by the Columbus Dispatch told us this:
Unlike most states, Ohio allows unregulated, third-party “submeter” companies to make big profits by reselling electricity and water to residents of apartments and condominiums.
A 10-month investigation by The Dispatch found that residents pay markups of 5?percent to 40?percent when their landlords enter into contracts with certain submeter companies. If the customer fails to pay, the companies sometimes resort to collection tactics that would be illegal for regulated utilities, including shutting off heat in winter and even eviction.
Many who face eviction are in apartments that cater to low-income tenants who did not budget for high electric bills.
So two “consumer” members on the state medical board are being paid by a company that preys on the poor and uses tactics that are so anti-consumer that they are illegal in many other states.
Leading the charge against these submeter firms has been the Office of Consumers’ Counsel, which advocates for residential utility customers, the Ohio Poverty Law Center and Legal Aid Columbus.
Several bills introduced to protect consumers have been derailed by what the Columbus Dispatch called “business interests.’’ The paper specifically singled out Kenney and Gonidakis as helping to defeat the reforms.
In addition to lobbying for Kenney’s company, Gonidakis lobbies for Ohio Right to Life.
In an August 19 letter, groups representing doctors, consumers, and women asked the medical board to remove Gonidakis as its President, saying recent comments he made prove he cannot be impartial in abortion-related cases.
The letter was prompted by an August 3 press release in which Ohio Right to Life announced that its Dayton affiliate filed a complaint with the medical board against three licensed Ohio physicians. The complaint accuses the doctors of having “violated Ohio law and forced an abortion on this patient … who was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.’’ The news release includes a quote from Devin Scribner, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, that states, in part, “Ohio’s abortion lobby forfeits whatever tinge of credibility it has if it refuses to condemn what happened at Women’s Med Center.”
That same day, Mr. Gonidakis forwarded a copy of the release to ProgressOhio Executive Director and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio board member Sandy Theis with this personal note:
Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for “women’s health”. So sad.
Theis said the comment proves Gonidakis believes the doctors are guilty of wrongdoing without hearing from them or anyone else with first-hand knowledge of the case. She organized the letter that seeks Gonidakis’ removal from the board and filed a separate complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
After initially saying he would not recuse himself from the Dayton case, Gonidakis told the Dayton Daily News he will – but plans to stay on the medical board.
Still, calls for his removal are catching fire, and one such call came from Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek who wrote:
The medical panel issues licenses to doctors — that includes physicians who perform abortions — and monitors doctors to ensure adherence to high medical and ethical standards. Before assuming his public post, Mr. Gonidakis was a well-known lobbyist in Columbus pushing the legislative goals of his group (Ohio Right to Life.)
In that capacity, he certainly had the right to express his passionately held beliefs alongside abortion advocates. But here’s the thing. When your job is to oversee the practice of medicine in Ohio, establish proper medical credentials, uphold standards, and oversee compliance with the law, impartiality is key.
In its editorial, Conflict at the State Medical Board, the Akron Beacon Journal called for him to step down from the panel and said he never should have been appointed in the first place.
Pro-consumer forces are hoping that the conflict controversy has weakened Gonidakis enough that a new bill to crack down on his utility client will finally pass.
Two new bills have emerged. The first was submitted by Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington. It would prevent a submeter company from charging more than the regulated prices of utilities and directs the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to set rules.
On behalf of American Power & Light, Gondidakis said it “fails to address concerns regarding consumer protection” and “lays the groundwork to legislatively put legitimate companies out of business and kill jobs.”
So a guy who brags about how the excessive regulation of abortion clinics, hospitals and doctors has closed nearly half the Ohio clinics is opposed to the kind of regulation that helps consumers.
The second bill – Senate Bill 348 – comes from Sen. Kevin Bacon, R-Minerva Park and is clearly the industry bill.
Asked about Bacon’s bill, Gonidakis said: “Sen. Bacon’s approach puts consumers first while balancing a legitimate business’ ability to operate. The legislation’s foundation consists of consumer protection, transparency and a common sense regulatory framework. Everyone can support this strategic approach.”
Duffey’s bill, however, is the one that won praise from the Consumers’ Counsel.
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