Suit says Minnesota drivers' records illegally checked 600 times

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2013 - 7:22 PM

Suit claims that drivers’ records of people involved in Wabasha County politics were illegally checked at least 600 times.

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Arttorney Erick Kaardal walked away clutching the 95-page federal lawsuit after briefing the media at Thursay at the State Capitol, in St. Paul.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Eighteen people, including a state legislator, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against more than 50 counties, cities and state agencies, claiming their driving records were illegally looked up at least 600 times.

The group, which includes two members of the Wabasha County Board and others involved in county politics, said that they were the targets of retaliation for political positions they took.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said that his family’s records were looked up 133 times over eight years, including 95 times for himself alone.

One woman, Julie Porcher, said her information was accessed immediately after the publication of her letter to the editor accusing the County Board of overspending.

Attorney Eric Kaardal described the group, which includes 14 residents of Wabasha County, as “reformers.” He alleged that law enforcement officials and others accessed his clients’ records to dig up “any dirt” they could find.

Widespread misuse of the state’s driver’s license database by public employees has spurred a wave of litigation against cities and counties across Minnesota. About 20 individual suits, including the one announced Thursday, claim that public employees — mostly in law enforcement — snooped into the records.

The Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) database contains historical photographs, addresses and driving records on Minnesotans with licenses. It is protected by federal law against misuse, but a state audit in February found it has been routinely abused by law enforcement personnel.

A Star Tribune survey of major cities and counties and the insurers for smaller government bodies show the total number of inappropriate lookups being claimed now surpasses 8,400. That count excludes a lawsuit seeking class-action status against the state involving a Department of Natural Resources employee who allegedly made about 19,000 lookups.

 

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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