A man gathering petition signatures for the House Bill 6 repeal referendum says he was assaulted Tuesday in Dublin by a woman who slapped his cell phone from his hand as he took her picture.

Harold Chung called police at 12:56 p.m. Tuesday to report he was attacked outside the Dublin branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 75 N. High St., as he gathered signatures to oppose the bill to financially bail out Ohio's two nuclear power plants through fees on electricity bills.

Police said an investigation is continuing and no arrest has been made.

Chung, 46, of Las Vegas, who was not injured, told officers the woman who knocked his phone out of his hand and leaned into him with her shoulder had been following other petition gatherers from his unidentified company prior to the incident.

"It looks like she is a hired blocker to keep me from gathering signatures," Chung said in his 911 call to police. The woman, who was carrying fliers she dropped, "kind of shoulder blocked me away," when he attempted to pick up his heavily damaged phone and the fliers, he said.

A surveillance video obtained by The Dispatch from the Columbus Metropolitan Library through a public records request confirms Chung's account. He appeared to be taking the woman's photo after she tried to give a flier to a woman with a small child. When they walked away, she abruptly approached him and struck him on the hand, knocking his phone to the ground.

A photo of the woman that Chung took and gave to police, and obtained by The Dispatch, shows her wearing a FieldWorks lanyard and canvasser badge and holding a card or flyer that reads: "Decline to sign. Save our jobs."

Curt Steiner, spokesman for Generation Now, which supports the nuclear plant bailout law, said the group had hired FieldWorks, of Washington, D.C., to place workers "on the ground throughout Ohio to monitor the petition drive" and speak with voters, Steiner said.

Steiner said that based on the photo of the woman, "she obviously works with FieldWorks." Asked if the company had identified or taken any action against the woman, Steiner replied he did not know. "The bottom line, we will continue to make sure FieldWorks, all the field staff, operates in a courteous and professional manner when they are doing their work," he said.

A group opposed to House Bill 6 — Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts — needs to obtain the valid signatures of 265,774 registered Ohio voters by Oct. 21 to place a referendum before voters on the November 2020 ballot. If the referendum is certified to the ballot, it would delay the implementation of the law until the vote.

Signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine, House Bill 6 will impose an 85-cent monthly charge on residential electricity bills to generate $150 million a year to subsidize the Lake Erie plants owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions. The bankrupt company threatened to close the plants without a subsidy, and will shut them down if the referendum qualifies for the ballot, a spokesman says.

FirstEnergy Solutions is attempting to overturn the referendum bid before the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing House Bill 6 imposed a tax that is not subject to repeal at the ballot box.

The bill also extends a charge to electricity customers to support two coal-burning power plants owned by a consortium of Ohio utilities, including Columbus-based American Electric Power, and reduces green-energy standards.

Supporters contend the law is necessary to preserve thousands of jobs at the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants and retain Ohio's largest and cleanest source of electrical energy.

Ohioans for Energy Security, a dark-money group that is fighting to save the law, is bankrolling an expensive series of TV commercials urging Ohioans to not sign the petitions being circulated to overturn House Bill 6 and urging people to call a hotline when they encounter signature gatherers. The commercials claim, with no evidence, that the Chinese government is attempting to take over Ohio's energy grid because the owners of natural-gas power plants who oppose House Bill 6 received loans from a Chinese government bank — as did FirstEnergy Corp., the parent of FirstEnergy Solutions.