The long list of lawsuits against Minnesota governments for employees improperly snooping into the state driver’s license database is slowly shrinking.
Minneapolis leaders are expected to give an initial sign-off Monday to a $155,000 settlement with Sheila Potocnik and her attorneys, who sued the city several years ago claiming that a police sergeant used private information in the database to harass her. The City Council is simultaneously expected to approve a settlement with Kelly Marie Engebretson, another plaintiff, for $25,000, including attorney’s fees.
A flood of lawsuits hit governments across the state several years ago after it became clear the state’s driver and vehicle services database was being misused. The database contains photographs, addresses and driving records of Minnesotans with a license.
A number of those cases have been dismissed or severely narrowed by court decisions regarding the statute of limitations and which lookups will be considered improper. Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said about a half-dozen cases remain active against the city, down from a peak of about 40. Some were settled.
Potocnik’s case stems from phone calls between Potocnik and then-Sgt. Walter Carlson. Potocnik, whose brother had children with Carlson’s daughter, had called Carlson’s daughter requesting that her brother be able to visit the children.
Potocnik said in her 2013 complaint that Sgt. Carlson called her cellphone from the Minneapolis Police Department and revealed private information about her during an angry conversation.
The parties in the case disputed the precise nature of the conversation, said Potocnik’s attorney Jon Strauss. But, he added, “The facts show that Sgt. Carlson was not conducting police business for Minneapolis when he accessed Ms. Potocnik’s driver’s license information.”
Strauss said Carlson has since left the department.
He added that based on the number of lookups the judge said could be considered, the settlement was “a very successful result.”