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Political retaliation behind driver's license snooping, lawsuit claims

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A lawsuit filed Thursday claims that police and other government employees made more than 600 illegal searches through private driver's-license information.

An attorney for the 18 plaintiffs said the data belonged to Wabasha County officials and citizens, and that they were targeted in retaliation for their political activities.

The Pioneer Press reports the plaintiffs include two of the five Wabasha County Commissioners and state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, the assistant house minority leader. Drazkowski's wife and daughter were also targeted.

The Associated Press said the group filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota against more than 50 counties, municipalities and multiple state officials.

The Winona Daily News reports that data accessed also belonged to someone who wrote a letter to the editor and those who had campaign signs in their yards. Attorney Erick Kaardal, who represents the accusers, said the plaintiffs have worked together on various political campaigns and causes.

He said a court administrator who helped set up drug courts had her information accessed.

“She was pushing for change,” Kaardal said.

The complaint alleges that government employees inappropriately searched private information on the database used by law enforcement. Kaardal said the issue came to light after other recent lawsuits over driver's-license data abuse, including a growing class-action suit with hundreds of plaintiffs.

Earlier this year, the state Legislative Auditor found misuse of the database was pervasive. A suit involving a former employee of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is pending.

The DNR said he accessed the records of 5,000 people, 90 percent of whom were women.

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