A Mankato law firm is taking the lead in a lawsuit against the Minnesota DNR over the illegal access of private data.
A group of 17 individuals are suing the DNR, the state of Minnesota, and the man who did the illegal searches and his supervisors, and are asking for a settlement in neighborhood of $50 million dollars.
DNR Administrative Manager John Hunt has been fired for conducting nearly 20 thousand searches of over seven thousand people the past four years.
A blatant abuse of the Driver and Vehicle Services database, or DVS, and the reason why Hunt's superiors are also included in the lawsuit.
Scott Kelly an attorney with Farrish Johnson, which has filed this particular lawsuit, says, "I think there were 4,000 a year. The number of accesses he should have had would have been 200 a year. So it was pretty obvious that something wasn't right and they had an obligation to monitor and make sure their people were compliant with the law."
Among those listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit complaint is the wife of disgraced Twin Cities businessman Denny Hecker, and the fiancé of Twins' legend Kirby Puckett, and several other Twin Cities TV personalities or celebrities.
94% of the victims were women, and the lawsuit alleges he liked to use the DVS records for dating.
Kelly says, "The other concern here is that he was using the information in connection with online dating. He was using match.com for a dating resource and was checking these women out on their DVS records as well."
Farrish Johnson is still in the process of investigating illegal activity surrounding the DVS records. From their research so far, it's not just a problem with one male employee at the DNR.
Kelly says, "The troubling aspect of it here is the DPS does annual audits and we've gone back and obtained the annual audits for the last three years. The problem is rampant throughout the state of Minnesota."
The Fairmont Police Department appears on the audit, and apparently had DVS access suspended for six months.
And out of all the instances of misuse, only a few show that the victims of the search were notified that their records were illegally accessed.