MANKATO — A Mankato law firm is involved in a class-action lawsuit against a Department of Natural Resources manager accused of illegally downloading driver’s license information for dozens of Minnesota women, including well-known television news reporters.
The federal civil lawsuit filed by Farrish Johnson Law Office in Mankato claims John Austin Hunt, 48, of Woodbury accessed about 19,000 motor vehicle records between January 2008 and October 2012. There were more than 7,000 people involved.
“In addition to the enormous volume of queries, the subjects of Hunt’s searches raised concerns in that the were approximately 94 percent female,” a Farrish Johnson news release said. “The searches included DNR employees, TV news people and local celebrities.”
Scott Kelly, an attorney with Farrish Johnson Law Office in Mankato, said the 15 women and two men now being named as clients are all from the Twin Cities area. There are other potential clients, some well-known, from the Twin Cities who haven’t been named. He has been working on the case with Farrish Johnson attorneys William Partridge and Dan Bellig.
Hunt was fired from the DNR in January. After an investigation by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and other agencies, Hunt was charged earlier this month with six counts of misconduct by a public employee, unauthorized computer access, using encryption to conceal a crime and unlawful use of public data. That investigation found Hunt had downloaded 172 Driver and Vehicle Services records onto an encrypted file on his computer, according to the lawsuit.
Kelly said there are at least two other law firms representing people who have received letters from the DNR saying their information was accessed illegally. He said they are talking about working together for a class-action lawsuit. Only about 300 letters have been sent out so far as a result of the DNR investigation, Kelly said.