COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio's governor placed on leave Friday an agency director who was questioned over why state computers were used to find personal information on a man who became known as "Joe the Plumber" during the presidential campaign.
Gov. Ted Strickland said in a statement that Helen Jones-Kelley was placed on paid administrative leave because of the possibility a state computer or state e-mail account was used to assist in political fundraising.
The statement didn't mention the checks on Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, a Toledo-area man who became known as Joe the Plumber as GOP presidential nominee John McCain held him up as an everyman suspicious of Democrat Barack Obama's proposals. Wurzelbacher ultimately endorsed McCain and campaigned with him in Ohio.
Jones-Kelley has acknowledged that records on Wurzelbacher held by an agency she directs — the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services — were reviewed.
She has said they were part of routine checks her agency conducts when someone suddenly emerges in the limelight. State Inspector Tom Charles is investigating whether Jones-Kelley improperly authorized the search.
Republican lawmakers — including state Senate President Bill Harris — have questioned Jones-Kelley's actions. State Rep. Bill Batchelder urged Strickland, a Democrat, to put Jones-Kelley on leave until Charles' investigation is complete.
"No Ohioan should be subject to a 'witch hunt' on the whim of a public official," Batchelder said in a statement.
Wurzelbacher, meanwhile, has paid a nearly $1,200 tax bill, according to court documents filed in Toledo on Thursday. Wurzelbacher has said he didn't know he had a tax lien against him until reporters looked into his background.