OHIO DJFS Chief on leave over Illegal Records Search on "Joe the Plumber"
Gov. Ted Strickland said today he is placing Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, on paid administrative leave "due to the possibility, as yet unconfirmed, that a state computer or state e-mail account was used to assist in political fund-raising."
Strickland's office said the matter surfaced in a review of agency e-mail in response to a public-records request. The governor has asked Inspector General Tom Charles to include it in his current, ongoing investigation of confidential state records being accessed involving Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, otherwise known as "Joe the Plumber" of suburban Toledo.
Cabinet Secretary Jan Allen has been asked to serve as acting director of the agency.
Voting rights and wrongs
What's not fair game is for employees of Ohio's Democratic governor to search through state databases looking for information that might be used to smear Wurzelbacher. After McCain invoked Joe's name in the final presidential debate, the head of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services sent underlings on a snooping expedition, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The agency searched to find out whether Joe owed child support or unemployment taxes or was on public assistance.
When caught by reporters, the agency head insisted that this was all routine and that when someone is thrust into the public spotlight, "we often take a look." A spokesman for Gov. Ted Strickland shrugged off the snooping, too. Now, the state's inspector general is investigating to see whether laws or rules were broken. He should.
Looks like the Clinton era War Room is Back! Home of the Pre-emptive Strike, Joe the Plumber sign of the times
Joe the Plumber’s speedy journey from anonymity to fame to martyr at the hands of the media says volumes about modern American culture and politics. Witness Joe’s sudden rise, a la American Idol, from nobody to superstar. Last week, less than three weeks after his chat on taxes with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, Samuel J. “Joe” Wurzelbacher was so inundated with media attention he was forced to hire a publicist.3
The Other Side of the Issue: Mrs. Jones-Kelly Department Chief Explained the Search.
So when Joe the Plumber became a household name, Jones-Kelley had her agency check him out.
She explains this in a three-page letter to Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, R-Ashland, who outlined questions of his own in a letter to Strickland and the director.
''I would never authorize or turn a blind eye to accessing departmentally maintained databases for any nongovernmental purpose,'' Jones-Kelley notes.
''When a news story brings to our attention a person who has recently realized a financial windfall or which otherwise suggests that the person may have more financial resources available to them than might be expected, we take note.''
Lottery and lawsuit winners and anyone else the media deem important enough to write about are often routinely checked, Jones-Kelley said.
''Not surprisingly, when a person behind in child support or receiving public assistance is receiving significant media coverage, which suggests that the person appears to have available financial resources, the department risks justifiable criticism if it fails to take note and respond,'' she explains to Harris.