FEBRUARY 01, 2011
The ousted state official who abused public resources to campaign for President Obama and illegally access confidential information to retaliate against “Joe the Plumber” has scored a lucrative government job that pays her more than the last one.Her criminal behavior got her booted from her previous taxpayer-financed position, but Helen Jones-Kelley has bounced back in the public sector with a sweet gig that will pay her six figures. In 2008 Jones-Kelley was forced out as director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for searching state computer files to dig up dirt on a small-business employee who publicly criticized Obama’s plan to redistribute wealth.Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber,” was throwing a football with his son in the front yard of his home when Obama’s campaign entourage strolled through the neighborhood. Wurzelbacher questioned Obama’s tax proposals on small businesses and Obama countered that spreading the wealth is good for everybody. The exchange earned worldwide media attention and “Joe the Plumber” became an overnight sensation.In a quest to discredit the popular figure, Jones-Kelley and two other high-ranking employees at her state agency violated Wurzelbacher’s constitutional rights by illegally accessing confidential information from its official databases. An Ohio Inspector General investigation determined that the searches constituted a“wrongful act” and that Jones-Kelley misused state resources to conduct political activities on behalf of Obama.The private data on Wurzelbacher included information on child support, whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes. Jones-Kelley, who had been appointed by Ohio’s Democratic governor, insisted that the checks were “well-meaning,” but simply misinterpreted during the final stretch of a tempestuous presidential election.Judicial Watch filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Wurzelbacher but a federal judge in Ohio dismissed it in August, essentially ruling that government officials are free to rifle through citizens’ private files without fear of being held accountable in court. Judicial Watch is appealing because Ohio state officials clearly violated Wurzelbacher’s constitutional rights by illegally accessing confidential information from its official files.While the case plays out in court, the public official who orchestrated the scandal will be rewarded for her unscrupulous behavior with a $145,000-a-year salary. Jones-Kelley’s new title is head of the Montgomery County Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services Board. The board’s vice chairman is satisfied that Jones-Kelley has acknowledged “mistakes were made.” Besides, he says, the so-called “mistakes” were a small part of her professional career and his agency needs to take advantage of the strengths she brings to the position.
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