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Dakota County worker faces charge for sharing report on 'making out' lawmakers

ST. PAUL -- A Dakota County employee is accused of improperly copying a sheriff's office incident report that included charges against two state representatives allegedly caught "making out" in Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Thomas Alan Berry, an e...

 

ST. PAUL -- A Dakota County employee is accused of improperly copying a sheriff’s office incident report that included charges against two state representatives allegedly caught “making out” in Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

Thomas Alan Berry, an employee in the environmental resources department, is accused of copying the park incidents report, which included confidential information, “with the intent to use the data for non-governmental purposes,” according to a misdemeanor charge filed Nov. 12 in Dakota County District Court.

Berry, 45, of Apple Valley printed the report and forwarded it to his home computer Aug. 26, the day after Reps. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, were cited for causing a nuisance at the park, according to the charge. The story surfaced in media reports a week later.

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The Ramsey County sheriff’s office looked into the apparent violation of the Minnesota Data Practices Act at the request of the Dakota County sheriff’s office.

Berry admitted he forwarded the report to his home computer “so he could discuss a couple of entries he found interesting with his wife,” according to the complaint filed by Ramsey County investigators.

The complaint says the report had been issued to 33 people in various Dakota County departments. It included the names, addresses, birthdates and descriptions of five people involved in a number of incidents at parks in the county.

Of the 33 employees who received the report, one employee, Berry, had printed and forwarded it, according to the complaint.

The complaint does not accuse Berry of leaking the report to the media. The Pioneer Press obtained documents on the incident between Mack and Kelly through a public court records search after receiving a tip. Citations are typically open to the public once they are filed.

Dakota County issued a statement saying it “has commenced internal employment and data practices investigations into the employee’s handling of certain private data. Information related to these civil investigations is private at this time.”

Kelly and Mack, who are married to other people, were cited Aug. 25 by a Dakota County park ranger who said he found the two “making out” in the park with Mack’s pants pulled down. The legislators initially denied the charge and accused the ranger of lying. They also said the report had been “illegally obtained.”

The two later apologized for saying the ranger lied. Both issued statements saying they disagreed with details in the ranger’s report but chose to pay the $260 fine rather than file complaints.

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Kelly is chair of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, and Mack is chair of the Health and Human Services Reform Committee. As a consequence of the park scandal, Kelly and Mack each resigned from their position on the House ethics committee.

Kelly and Mack did not respond to requests for comment. Attempts to reach Berry were not successful.

Berry could face a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Nick Ferraro contributed to this report.

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