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DNR records hacked by employee generates criticism of agency

Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is under scrutiny by Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (MBCA) after it was revealed that a DNR employee had accessed about 5,000 driving and motor vehicle records without authorization. It has also spawned criticism of the agency from area residents.

The now former employee is being investigated by the MBCA. However, as of Wednesday morning no charges had been filed.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr is taking fire from critics of the agency that oversees the state’s natural resources — hunting, fishing, timber, waterways and lands. In a statement to the media, Landwehr said, “The agency is implementing additional employee training and looking into ways to monitor access to the data to ensure it doesn’t happen again.” One might call that closing the barn door after the cattle are out.

By the way, it is illegal for government employees to access driver license information without government authorization. Unfortunately, audits conducted by the state have found that “misuse is common and a number of public employees have faced discipline for it,” according to the Associated Press.

Dispatch readers have commented on the most recent invasion of privacy by the state agency, with many comments focusing on the agency’s leader.

One reader comment stated: “DNR corruption, what’s new. This is a taxpayer funded organization. They can start at the top with Landwher and Niskanen just for covering up the corruption.”

Another Dispatch website commentator stated: “This really needs outside more ‘fox in charge of the henhouse.’”

If the DNR is a state agency that needs to be investigated thoroughly, I do believe the MBCA is the one agency that will dig deeply enough to determine the criminality involved in this most recent situation. However, if the DNR needs to have new leadership, then, as one blogger said: “Mark Dayton, the ball is in your court.”

This recent incident is something that needs to be scrutinized by the media and the people of the state in order to ensure a proper outcome.

Keith Hansen

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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