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Published: Tuesday, 10/28/2008

Inspector general probing checks on Ohio plumber


COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio s inspector general said Monday that he s investigating why state computers were used to look up personal information on the Toledo-area man who became famous as Joe the Plumber during a presidential debate earlier this month.

Thomas Charles said he wants to determine if checks on Joe Wurzelbacher were conducted legally.

Helen Jones-Kelly, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services director, said she approved a check on Wurzelbacher just after the Oct. 15 presidential debate to see whether he was current on child support payments. She said Monday there were no political reasons behind the decision.

Our practice is when someone is thrust quickly into the public spotlight, we often take a look, she said, citing another instance when a lottery winner owed child support. Our practice is to basically look at what is coming our way.

Republican John McCain repeatedly cited Wurzelbacher s concerns over Democrat Barack Obama s tax proposals in that debate, setting off a rush of interest in the plumber s background.

The attorney general s office on Friday was investigating who used state computers to search for information on Wurzelbacher.

Accounts assigned to Attorney General Nancy Rogers office, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department were used to access information on Wurzelbacher s driver s license and his vehicle registration from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database.

Rogers office said Monday that information was obtained through a test account it shared with contractors who developed a computer network for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

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