Agency Director Resigns After Spying on 'Joe the Plumber' on State Computers

CINCINNATI -- An Ohio agency director resigned Wednesday in the wake of a finding that she improperly used state computers to access personal information on the man who became known as "Joe the Plumber" during the presidential campaign.

Two other officials who were suspended from their positions for their role in the computer search will not be returning to their jobs, an agency spokeswoman said.

Department of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley said in a statement accompanying her resignation that she won't allow her reputation to be disparaged and that she is concerned for her family's safety.

"This decision comes after a time of pause, in which I realize that I continue to be used as a political postscript, providing a distraction from urgent state priorities," she said in her statement.
She could not be reached for additional comment Wednesday night.

Gov. Ted Strickland suspended Jones-Kelley for a month without pay after the Ohio Inspector General's office found in November that she improperly used state computers to find personal information on Samuel Wurzelbacher. The investigation also found that she conducted improper political fundraising activity for now President-elect Barack Obama.

"The governor values Helen Jones-Kelley's years of public service as a dedicated advocate for the most vulnerable among us," Strickland's spokesman Keith Dailey said Wednesday. "He understands her decision and accepts her resignation."

Investigators could not confirm that Jones-Kelley accessed the records of Wurzelbacher with political gain in mind. His report did indicate that she had used her personal Blackberry to send the Obama fundraising requests -- though it was synched up to state equipment.

Wurzelbacher, a Toledo-area plumber who questioned Obama about his tax plan, was dubbed "Joe the Plumber" by Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Two top-level members of Jones-Kelley's staff also will be leaving the department, said agency spokeswoman Scarlett Bouder.

Fred Williams, the department's assistant director, will resign effective Jan. 31 and the agency is revoking Doug Thompson's position as deputy director of child support effective Dec. 22, she said.

Both had been suspended from their positions after being implicated in the computer records search.

Ohio lawmakers are expected to pass a bill Thursday that requires state agencies to determine proper circumstances for records to be checked and to authorize only specific individuals to perform those checks.