November 23, 2008

‘Joe the Plumber’ Data Dive Whistleblower Nearly Invisible

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:26 am

It’s very doubtful that the name “Vanessa Niekamp” rings a bell with very many readers here. That’s because the media elites like some whistleblowers, and not others.

In other circumstances, someone like Ms. Niekamp would be a heroine. In the current circumstances, she’s barely a footnote. In my opinion, it’s because she was involved in exposing shenanigans conducted on behalf of the then-presidential candidate the media loves and adores that threatened to derail his march to victory.

If it weren’t for Vanessa Niekamp, the public might not have learned of the duplicitous and likely extra-legal dives into State of Ohio databases by state employees determined to dig up dirt on Joe the Plumber. A subsequent investigation by the Ohio Inspector General (OIG; PDF is accessible at the first item at this link) determined that Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley and state employees at other agencies had engaged in “improper” records checks “without any legitimate business purpose.”

WBNS-TV in Columbus followed up with Niekamp after the OIG released its report:

The state employee who blew the whistle on improper searches into the background of the man known as “Joe The Plumber” said Friday that she never expected to be thrown into the middle of such controversy.

According to a report issued Thursday by Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services agency director Helen Jones-Kelley improperly used state computers to find personal information regarding Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, a Toledo-area man known as Joe the Plumber.

….. The inspector general’s report also concluded that Jones-Kelley improperly used state e-mail to engage in political activity.

Vanessa Niekamp, a 15-year ODJFS employee, was recognized by the Inspector General for coming forward with information about the searches.

During her career, Niekamp has been involved in training other state employees about what’s off limits regarding state databases. In an interview Friday, Niekamp said she never thought she’d find herself in the middle of such a situation.

….. Niekamp’s boss, ODJFS deputy director Doug Thompson, forced her to send an e-mail covering up the reason behind the searches into Wurzelbacher.

….. Niekamp said she was hopeful that there would not be backlash at the ODJFS office, and her attorney said he was prepared for legal action if necessary.

“It’s part of every state employees job to report anything that they may have concern over, or potentially think might be unethical,” Niekamp said. “You have family members you have neighbors and you’re serving them, too. If it were one of them would you want them to know.”

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland “punished” Jones-Kelley with a one-month suspension without pay. The governor’s related press release betrays his resentment of and antagonism towards having to deal with the matter (bolds are mine):

Helen Jones-Kelley has dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable among us. She is recognized nationally as an expert in the field of foster care and she has worked commendably for many years as an advocate for children, families and workers in her native Montgomery County and the state of Ohio. I value her contributions to the state and her local community.

However, I accept the Inspector General’s judgment that there was not an adequate business purpose for the searches in question. ….. Therefore, today I have issued a one-month unpaid suspension for Director Helen Jones-Kelley.

My goodness, you would think the woman is on par with Mother Teresa, when in fact she’s a state bureaucrat making $142,000 a year.

And Ted: Don’t give us this “not adequate business purpose” garbage. What about “without any legitimate business purpose” don’t you understand?

On Friday, just in time for the weekend news dump, Strickland handed out similar “punishments” to four others.

Niekamp’s invisibility is evidenced by this Google News search on her full name in quotes, which returned all of 29 items, even with duplicates, as of 10 a.m. this morning. The New York Times has never mentioned her name, nor has the Washington Post (both searches were done without quotes.

I hope Ms. Niekamp’s referenced legal representation is strong, as it’s reasonable to anticipate that her whistleblowing will not go unpunished.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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3 Comments

  1. What Strickland did say/+should have said:

    “Helen Jones-Kelley has dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable among us.”

    However, when she decided to exert her best efforts to increase the vulnerability of an Ohio citizen for purely partisan political purposes, she crossed the brightest of lines. This is not tolerable.

    “However, I accept the Inspector General’s judgment that there was not an adequate business purpose for the searches in question.”

    Furthermore, it is not a “business purpose” with which we are dealing. What we are dealing with is the fundamental question of the clear meaning of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Since Ms Jones-Kelley has demonstrated she does not respect that Amendment – I will not insult her intelligence by pretending she didn’t understand it – she is not fit to be employed by the great State of Ohio.

    Comment by Hershblogger — November 23, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  2. At 142K she is vastly overpaid. As someone who knowingly abused her position she should have been canned. Strickland is doing his best to make Taft look like a paragon of virtue.

    I hope I’m wrong, but Ms. Niekamp will be dealt with more thoroughly than Jones-Kelley. They will wait long enough for plausible deny ability, and find a weak excuse to push her out the door.

    Separately, this stupid hyphenated name stuff is irritating and needs to stop. Ya get married then take your husband’s name or keep your old name, but pick one (just pick one!).

    Comment by largebill — November 24, 2008 @ 7:47 am

  3. #2 LB, you’re such a Neanderthal (/kidding).

    Comment by TBlumer — November 24, 2008 @ 9:54 am

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