Bob Carroll

On Friday, Nov. 7, Governor Ted Strickland placed the Director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) Helen Jones-Kelley on administrative paid leave, according to Strickland’s official statement on the issue.

The investigation began when officials questioned whether Jones-Kelley inappropriately authorized a search of the records of Springfield Township resident Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who has been in the national spotlight since Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign dubbed him “Joe the Plumber” during the Oct. 15 presidential debate.

Jones-Kelley said ODJFS checks people who are “thrust into the public spotlight” for financial concerns, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The Dispatch reported Jones-Kelley ran checks through the child-support, unemployment and public assistance databases.

A statement by Gov. Strickland’s office did not mention the checks on Wurzelbacher. The statement said there was a “possibility, as yet unconfirmed” that Jones-Kelley used her state computer or state e-mail account to assist in fundraising for the Obama campaign. The Dispatch reported it received e-mails showing her e-mail account was used to provide names of potential contributors and offer to help set up an event during the summer.

Ohio Inspector General Tom Charles has been asked to investigate the situation further.

Gov. Strickland’s press secretary Keith Dailey said neither the governor’s office nor Job and Family Services officials could comment due to the ongoing investigation.

Brian Harter, a spokesman for the ODJFS also declined to comment due to the nature of the ongoing investigation.

According to the governor’s statement, Strickland’s Cabinet Secretary Jan Allen will serve as acting director of the department.

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services oversees more than 4,000 full-time employees and operates on an annual budget of more than $17 billion. Jones-Kelley is a Democratic appointee.