Veteran KSTP-TV news reporter Jay Kolls has sued many municipalities and the state Department of Public Safety, alleging that law enforcement officers and others snooped at his driver’s license information without justification.
Kolls’ legal action Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis said there were 27 instances from 2003 to 2011 when “personnel, charged with protecting and serving the public, knowingly abused their position of trust simply to satisfy their shallow desires to peek behind the curtain” into his private life.
In August, Fox 9 anchor and sports reporter Dawn Mitchell sued about 50 Minnesota governments in federal court after learning public employees had viewed her driver record 219 times over eight years. KSTP investigative producer — and former crime reporter — Beth McDonough filed a similar suit in July.
Listed as defendants by Kolls are: the cities of Edina, Minneapolis, Mound, Orono, Rosemount, Savage, Shakopee and St. Paul; the Rosemount-based Dakota Communications Center; Renville County; and former state Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner Michael Campion and his successor, Ramona Dohman.
Also cited as defendants are “John and Jane Does,” representing the individuals who actually made the alleged breaches of Kolls’ license information.
The suit adds that the defendants’ “utter disregard for [Kolls’] privacy rights” caused him “emotional distress and a logical fear for his personal safety.”
He went on to call the defendants “window peepers of the electronic data age.”
The suit did not address why Kolls’ license data would be of interest to the defendants. Asked on Wednesday about a possible motive, Kolls said, “We are trying to figure it out.”
Officials with each of the defendants also have been contacted Wednesday seeking reaction to the suit.
John Iverson, an attorney representing Mound, Orono, Rosemount, Savage, Shakopee and the Dakota Communications Center, said, “We will be filling an early motion to dismiss as we have done in all of the other cases and expect similar rulings granting the motion.”
Bruce Gordon, spokesman for the DPS, said, “State agencies, including DPS, have been dismissed from these lawsuits in the past. Those rulings made it clear that state agencies are not liable for a user’s unauthorized access of driver and vehicle data.”
As evidence, the suit presents an audit prepared last year at Kolls’ request by the DPS showing what it says are the unauthorized instances of looking up driver’s license information that includes: home address, color photograph, date of birth, eye color, height, weight, driver identification number, as well as medical and social security information.
The suit seeks at least $75,000 in damages and payment of Kolls’ expenses in bringing the legal action. It also calls on the DPS to better monitor and investigate such suspicious actions.
Gordon said his agency “remains committed to strengthening user training and oversight of the system, but oversight and training are no substitute for an individual honoring his or her professional and ethical obligation under the law.”
Last week, attorneys for a former Twin Cities police officer whose driver’s license data was repeatedly breached said the state has agreed to conduct better audits and impose more safeguards of the often-misused driver information database.
The legal settlement between Anne Marie Rasmusson and the DPS is one of the last steps in a lawsuit that has cost local governments across the state more than $1 million. Rasmusson’s success in the case has prompted a slew of class-action suits related to other incidents of driver’s license data misuse.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482