Minn. governor wants better background checks
By Don Davis
Forum News Service
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton says government should do better background checks before hiring people for sensitive positions.
His comments came Wednesday, following filing of a lawsuit claiming that people with access to what is supposed to be private driver’s license information looked up a Twin Cities television reporter and anchor 1,380 times and after a gunman who killed 12 people in the Washington Navy Yard received a contractors’ pass even though he had mental problems.
The governor said he does not have a solution to the privacy problem, but suggested he will work with state lawmakers on a solution during next year’s legislative session.
The state could pay millions of dollars for the breach of driver’s license privacy.
“There is something not normal for that type of behavior,” Dayton said about people who looked up prominent journalists’ licenses.
The latest information came this week when KSTP journalist Jessica Miles filed a federal lawsuit claiming her license was illegally searched by law enforcement computers 1,380 times.
About 20 people have sued state and government agencies for improperly looking up license information. Miles’ suit claims that employees of 180 state and local departments looked at her private data.
The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported last week that a survey it conducted found that licenses have been illegally examined recently more than 8,400 times. That figure does not include a Department of Natural Resources worker who stands accused of making thousands of improper searches.
Each violation could bring a $2,500 penalty, but lawsuits may seek more money for damages.
Last week, another lawsuit was announced in which Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, two Wabasha County board members and others claimed their information was breached because by political opponents.
Federal law requires driver’s license information to be kept confidential, and only can be looked up if needed by law enforcement for legitimate needs.
Dayton said he has yet to receive a report detailing the problem, but added that it is obvious “we need a better system” of backgrounding people before allowing them access to sensitive personal information.