With local officials victims, Duluth to review DNR case

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2013 - 8:32 PM

Enough local government officials were affected by last week's breach of about 5,000 drivers license records that Twin Cities prosecutors have been forced to send the case to Duluth for review.

The unusual move comes a week after the Department of Natural Resources announced that an employee had, over several years, inappropriately accessed thousands of records in the state's driver and vehicle services (DVS) database. The unnamed employee is no longer with the agency.

Since the breach was announced, a number of journalists -- almost exclusively women -- have learned their information was compromised. At least one legislator, Plymouth Republican Rep. Sarah Anderson, also said publicly that data on her was accessed.

Minneapolis and St. Paul's city attorneys occasionally forward cases to each other when there are local employees involved -- to avoid a conflict of interest. But St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing was among the data breach victims, she said Tuesday, and it appears several people in Minneapolis City Hall were, as well.

The number of affected people "made trying to find a prosecutor a little more difficult," Grewing said. Asked why she did not forward the case to Minneapolis, Grewing said, "Let me just say that there's a lot of people on that list."

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said her data was not breached but said she has heard "that some city officials may have been among the people getting [data breach] letters."

Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson confirmed that his office, which has four prosecutors, will be reviewing the case.

On Wednesday, Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, and Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, are expected to announce legislation to "combat this growing problem" of public employees breaching state databases.

Misuse of the state's DVS database by state and local employees is common, state records show, though criminal charges are rare. In Minneapolis, two employees are currently facing criminal charges of DVS misuse. That case is being prosecuted by the St. Paul city attorney's office.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

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