So what do you think the proper punishment should be for a government worker who invades the privacy of a citizen to help a political campaign? How about a brand new government job?!
According to the Columbus Dispatch:
A county agency has hired Ohio’s former social services director, who quit over a records check on the campaign figure known as “Joe the Plumber.”
Helen Jones-Kelley resigned in December 2008 as director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That was after an investigation found she improperly used state computers to find personal information on Samuel J. Wurzelbacher of the Toledo area.
Jones-Kelley was hired yesterday to lead the Montgomery County Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services Board.
Board Vice Chairman Stan Eichenaur tells the Dayton Daily News that Jones-Kelley has acknowledged that mistakes were made.
Let’s take a quick look at those “mistakes” made by Jones-Kelly.
You likely remember the exchange between Mr. Wurzelbacher and then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on the campaign trail in 2008. Mr. Wurzelbacher, who was then an employee of a small plumbing business, asked Obama a question regarding the impact of his economic policies on small businesses.
Obama responded by saying, “It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they’ve got a chance at success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
Of course the exchange between Mr. Wurzelbacher and Obama was captured on tape and immediately ignited a media firestorm. It even found its way into the next presidential debate with numerous references to “Joe the Plumber.”
Now, Mr. Wurzelbacher didn’t ask to be famous.
He didn’t set out to embarrass Barack Obama. All he did was ask a question of a political candidate, which is his right as an American citizen. And for this he paid dearly.
Just four days after Mr. Wurzelbacher questioned Obama, Jones-Kelley, then the Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, held a meeting with two other department officials and specifically discussed “Joe the Plumber.” Following the meeting, Jones-Kelley and two other officials authorized and instructed agency personnel to search confidential office databases to retrieve information about Mr. Wurzelbacher.
All three agency officials were supporters of Obama’s presidential campaign. In fact, in addition to making a personal $2,500 contribution to Senator Obama’s presidential campaign, Jones-Kelley provided names of numerous other potential high-dollar donors to the Obama campaign. She also volunteered to help arrange a campaign event for Obama’s wife, Michelle.
According to a subsequent investigation by the Ohio Inspector General there was “no legitimate agency function or purpose for checking on [Mr. Wurzelbacher’s] name through the [confidential databases] or for authorizing these searches,” which he labeled a “wrongful act.”
And the Inspector General went one step further with respect to Jones-Kelley, finding that she personally misused state resources to conduct political activities on behalf of Obama.
Jones-Kelley was suspended without pay, and then she resigned her position in shame. Now she’s on the taxpayer dole again with a plum new government job and all of the attendant benefits (and powers).
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Wurzelbacher against Jones-Kelley and her co-conspirators, claiming that these searches violated his constitutional rights. Unfortunately, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio didn’t see it that way and dismissed our lawsuit in a ruling issued August 4, 2010. Here’s the statement I offered to the press in response:
The implications of this court decision are frightening. Essentially the court has said that government officials can feel free to rifle through the private files of citizens without fear of being held accountable in court. How can the American people feel comfortable exercising their First Amendment rights when they may be subject to secret searches by politicized bureaucrats in return? It is unconscionable that high-ranking state officials pried into confidential government files to punish Joe Wurzelbacher for asking a simple question. Justice was not served with this decision. Judicial Watch will most certainly file an appeal on behalf of Mr. Wurzelbacher.
We quickly appealed that court ruling and should hear later this year from the appellate court. Joe’s life was turned upside down by Jones-Kelley and her co-conspirators. What a stain on the State of Ohio, and especially on Montgomery County, that she is once again on the public payroll.