Posted at: 01/25/2013 2:30 PM
Updated at: 01/25/2013 6:02 PM
By: Scott Theisen
The former employee of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources who was fired for accessing driving or motor vehicle records of about 5,000 people without authorization was a DNR enforcement officer, the agency revealed Friday.
The DNR said it fired John A. Hunt on Jan. 11. Hunt was the DNR Enforcement Division's administrative manager and had access to the records for law enforcement purposes only, the agency said.
But Hunt viewed the data of about 5,000 people while off duty and without any job-related purpose, the DNR said. Those included more than 200 DNR employees and some of their families.
An investigation found about 90 percent of people whose records were viewed were female, the DNR said. Records of celebrities, pro athletes, TV personalities and politicians were among those viewed. The DNR said it did not know Hunt's motive.
Messages left at a home phone believed to be Hunt's were not immediately returned Friday.
Hunt was fired because unauthorized access of the database violates state and federal law, as well as DNR policy and the agency's standards of behavior, the DNR said.
"This employee not only violated the law, but betrayed the trust of the agency, his supervisor, and fellow employees," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in a news release. "His behavior does not meet the high standards of integrity that we expect from our law enforcement officers or from all employees."
Initially, the DNR refused to release the employee's name but said it determined much of the data is public under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.
Investigations showed Hunt queried about 11,800 driver's license and motor vehicle records during off-duty hours from January 2008 to October 2012, the DNR said. Since some records were queried more than once, the investigation found about 5,000 people had their data viewed without a job-related reason during off-duty hours.
The DNR sent letters to the 5,000 affected Minnesotans earlier this month. The DNR said there is no indication the viewed data was sold, disclosed to others or used for criminal purposes. No Social Security numbers or other DNR-related license or registration information was involved, the agency said.
Hunt was the Enforcement Division's data practices "designee" and was responsible for managing the division's responsibilities for complying with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, the DNR said. Hunt's duties included ensuring that new conservation officers were familiar with the laws and rules for accessing driver's license and motor vehicle records.
Minnesota Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles has said he's investigating the DNR data privacy breach. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also is investigating.
Watch our previous coverage in the video box above.
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