Helen Jones-Kelley will get a month off without pay for her unauthorized snooping into the records of Joe Wurzelbacher after the states’ Inspector General called her probe “without any legitimate business purpose”. Criminal investigations will continue, but Republican lawmakers are not happy with the outcome:
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Helen Jones-Kelley was found to have acted improperly both in her authorization to use ODJFS confidential databases to search for information on “Joe the Plumber” and in her use of state resources to engage in political activity in a report issued Thursday by the state’s Inspector General (IG) Thomas Charles.
In response, Gov. Ted Strickland late on Thursday announced that he was suspending Jones-Kelley for one month without pay, saying that he values “her contributions to the state and her local community” but that he accepts the IG’s judgment “that there was not an adequate business purpose for the searches in question. I also accept his determination that her personal BlackBerry was inappropriately synchronized, resulting in emails she perceived to be personal being transmitted through governmental email resources.”
The IG had a further comment about Jones-Kelley’s activities. Her defenders, Strickland among them, have tried to excuse her violations by noting that the information she retrieved didn’t get released to the press. No one can actually be certain of that, but even taken as a given, the IG says Jones-Kelley’s other political activities on the job call her motives into serious question.
Nor did the IG buy her excuses on those other points. Jones-Kelley tried telling the IG that any activities conducted on her Blackberry were private, but the IG noted that Jones-Kelley uses the Blackberry for work. She had it synchronized with the state’s e-mail system for that purpose. Her rationales for conducting the probes came from “blogs and hearsay” and no legitimate sources of inquiry. Overall, the conclusion can easily be reached that Jones-Kelley abused her power for partisan electoral purposes.
That’s certainly what Ohio Republicans have concluded. Senate President Bill Harris accused Jones-Kelley of misleading him when he demanded answers after her probes came to light. Harris and state Senator Tim Grendell both called for Strickland to fire Jones-Kelley, and Harris wants her deputy, Douglas Thompson, fired as well. Thompson tried to cover up the violation by demanding that employees write justifications after the fact for the probes.
Both officials should be fired immediately. Strickland’s month off without pay amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist for official abuse of power. Perhaps Strickland doesn’t see that as a firing offense, but I suspect Ohioans have a different perspective. In a month, Jones-Kelley and her crew may start investigating them as well, and for just as much pretext as Joe the Plumber.
Fox News adds this report: