In Minneapolis, private information database abuse "endemic," attorney says

Deegan (left), faces a criminal charge for abusing private records months after Rasmusson (right) filed a million-dollar record-abuse lawsuit.
Deegan (left), faces a criminal charge for abusing private records months after Rasmusson (right) filed a million-dollar record-abuse lawsuit.

Minneapolis' director of housing inspections, Tom Deegan, has been placed on administrative leave along with city housing inspector Michael Karney after the two were charged with misdemeanor counts of public employee misconduct.

-- Anne Marie Rasmusson sues cops who accessed her record
-- Anne Marie Rasmusson's driver's license accessed 174 times in 2006

According to the Star Tribune, Deegan, a city employee for 37 years, and Karney, a 23-year veteran, "repeatedly accessed driver's license and motor vehicle data without an official business purpose."

The Driver and Vehicle Services database contains photos, driving records, addresses, and physical descriptions, the Strib reports.

Last winter, City Pages brought you the story of Anne Marie Rasmusson, a former Eden Prairie and St. Paul cop who recently filed a $1 million federal lawsuit against individual officers and governing bodies after a records audit revealed her private Driver Services information had been accessed 425 times by 104 officers in 18 different agencies.

According to the suit, the look-ups were specifically of Rasmusson's name -- not her driver's license number or license plate number -- and some accesses of her private data were just to see what she looked like.

"Each unauthorized use of her private information, made while acting under color of state law, violated Rasmusson's federal civil rights and constituted behavior prohibited by federal statute," the suit alleges.

Last winter, Rasmusson told City Pages there's nothing "about this driver's license photo or any of my previous ones that in any way would deserve the attention that they've gotten... I can't begin to understand what people were thinking."

One of the governing bodies involved in Rasmusson's suit is the City of Minneapolis. And now, in light of the allegations against the housing inspections employees, Paul Engh, Deegan's attorney, says the city has opened "a Pandora's box."

"Over 40 city employees have done the same thing and have not been charged," Engh told the Strib, adding that "accessing data was endemic for the city."

Engh says Deegan only accessed the records of his elderly family members, but he also gave his Drivers Services numbers to other employees. Deegan plans to plead not guilty during his October 11 court appearance, Engh added.

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