A six-month long investigation by the Office of the Ohio Inspector General determined an Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) employee improperly accessed a relative’s pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) claim several times without any legitimate business reason or authorization, and discontinued the relative’s approved PUA benefits.
The employee at the center of the investigation was identified as Customer Service Representative (CSR) Quenise Barnes.
The Ohio Inspector General said that a relative of Barnes had began receiving PUA payments in the spring of 2020. On May 7, 2021, the relative and Barnes got into an argument. A week later, Barnes told her relative that she was responsible for discontinuing her unemployment benefits.
On May 16, 2021, the relative was unable to recertify her benefits, and on May 17, 2021, her expected benefit payment was not deposited in her account.
Barnes had also posted on her social media about her employment with ODJFS and stated that she had the ability to adjust her relatives’ and friends’ benefits.
Investigators determined that Barnes accessed her relative’s claim 10 times before locking the claim and discontinuing her benefits on May 14, 2021. Investigators also found that Barnes had accessed her own unemployment claim four times during her employment with ODJFS without any legitimate business purpose, contrary to department policy.
Two findings and two recommendations were the result of the investigation They passed the report over to the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Columbus City Attorney’s Office, and the Ohio Ethics Commission for consideration.