Director Helen Jones-Kelley (photo: Ohio Department of Job and Family Services)
Following the third presidential debate, a state agency director and maximum donor to the Barack Obama presidential campaign immediately authorized a government background check of Joe the Plumber’s child-support records.
Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and a $2,300 contributor to the Obama campaign, permitted state employees to conduct a check on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Now Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles is seeking to determine whether at least four probes on state computers were legal.
Jones-Kelley denies the Support Enforcement Tracking System search was politically motivated and claims the check was ordered to verify that Wurzelbacher was not behind on child-support payments.
While the state agency director would not share information about Joe the Plumber’s record with the Dispatch, Wurzelbacher reportedly lives with his 13-year-old boy, and it is uncertain whether he has ever been ordered to pay child support.
Jones-Kelley said such background checks are not unusual.
“Our practice is when someone is thrust quickly into the public spotlight, we often take a look,” she said. “Our practice is to basically look at what is coming our way.”
Ohio’s Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland told the Dispatch his appointee, Jones-Kelly, did not authorize the check for political purposes.
“Based on what we know to this point, we don’t have any reason to believe the information was improperly accessed or disclosed by a state employee,” his press secretary told the paper.
Name searches on Joe the Plumber were also conducted at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, where his registration and driving records were pulled. The State Highway Patrol has seized a government computer at the Ohio Department of Insurance as evidence. A separate search was conducted in the Toledo Police Department’s criminal database.