Judge rules agency must provide information on food stamps to grand jury

LISBON – Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam ruled late last week the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services would have to comply with a subpoena to provide information at a grand jury hearing.

At an earlier hearing on the matter it was noted local investigators wanted to know who a food stamp card belonged to after the card was found during a criminal investigation. However, the Department of Jobs and Family Services, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) believed the information to be protected by confidentiality requirements for food assistance recipients.

In his ruling, Washam noted there is a difference between the right to preserve the dignity of the recipient and complete confidentiality. He mentioned as an instance, efforts to reduce fraud or abuse of the food stamp program. Washam also noted the requested information would be not released to the public at large, but only disclosed to the grand jury, which is required to keep secret any information received.

Washam wrote that although fraudulent activities regarding this particular beneficiary of the SNAP program are not what is being investigated, he argued it could be a possibility.

“That the benefit recipient is or may be a fleeing felon is yet even a great reason tipping the balance in favor of disclosure,” Washam said.

He concluded in favor of the prosecutor’s office, denying the motion by ODJFS to quash the subpoena.