Joe No! Joe the Plumber Sues Ohio State Employees

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 17, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It seems that our definition of celebrity is wildly flexible these days. Possibly as flexible as our definition of privacy. The world's most famous "plumber," "Joe the Plumber"  Joe Wurzelbacher is back, and this time it's personal. Joe has filed suit against three Ohio state employees for allegedly improperly accessing his personal information from state databases.

Joe and Joe's counsel, Judicial Watch, contend that Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley, Assistant Director Fred Williams and Deputy Director of Child Support Douglas Thompson improperly searched state databases in an attempt to find information about him in retaliation for his blistering questioning of then presidential candidate, Barak Obama. The group believes the actions of the named employees will have a "... chilling effect on not only his (Joe's) First Amendment rights, but on the First Amendment rights of all." Joe seeks "substantial damages, including emotional distress, harassment, personal humiliation and embarrassment" due to the searches.

Helen Jones-Kelley and Fred Williams have since resigned, and Douglas Thompson had his employment "revoked," after Inspector General Tom Charles found the state databases containing information about Wurzelbacher had been "improperly accessed." 

Debate rages in Ohio over Attorney General Richard Cordray's decision to defend the state employees. Often described in news stories as a "Democrat," Cordray is facing criticism for his decision to spend taxpayer dollars defending the Ohio Three from potential Republican challengers for his job. Cordray holds he is merely following state law and even attempting to save the taxpayers money at the same time. If the employees were sued for acting within the scope of their employment, they would be entitled to a defense by the state attorney general. If said attorney general denies representation, the employees could seek to recover their expenses for the suit, including attorney's fees. "Private attorneys charging hourly rates would be expensive," Cordray noted.   

Joe the Plumber is not currently plumbing.  He has turned away from his preferred profession because he "fears bogus complaints from potential customers who might dislike his politics." His current gig is reporting for conservative website PajamasTV . You go Joe.

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