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11/21/2008
05:15 PM
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Obama's Cell Phone Records Accessed, Verizon Admits

The account in question had been inactive for several months and was a voice flip phone, rather than a smartphone packed with e-mail and other data.

Beyond curiosity, those breaching the privacy of the famous and not so famous may be motivated by money or politics. A report released Thursday by Ohio's Office of the Inspector General found that of 18 background checks of Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, "five were conducted in response to media requests for information and eight were conducted by various agencies without any legitimate business purpose."

The report singled out Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJSF), for improperly authorizing searches of Wurzelbacher's records. Noting that previous department directors said they would never have authorized searches of "individuals who achieved 'celebrity' status," the report says, "[W]e find reasonable cause to conclude that Jones-Kelley committed a wrongful act by authorizing the searches on Wurzelbacher."

The report says that investigators received information indicating that Jones-Kelley may have used state resources for political activity. It notes that Jones-Kelley had her personal BlackBerry synchronized with the ODJFS e-mail system and that among the messages in the system "were four in which Jones-Kelley provided lists of names of potential contributors to the Obama campaign. One of those e-mails included Jones-Kelley's offer of a $2,500 contribution to the campaign."

The report offers no conclusive link between Jones-Kelley's authorization of the records searches and her possible use of state resources for political purposes. However, Gov. Ted Strickland has suspended her for a month without pay.

Jones-Kelley yesterday acknowledged that she should not have authorized the searches. "I accept the content the (of) Inspector General's report and should not have allowed the Wurzelbacher searches to move forward," Jones-Kelley told the Dayton Daily News. "While there is a disagreement as to whether those searches were done for legitimate business purposes, my only intent was to fulfill my agency's fiduciary responsibilities to Ohio's families."

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