A federal lawsuit has been filed against Mobile County Licence Commissioner Kim Hastie and public relations firm Stateco alleging they took part in a scheme to disseminate email addresses from more than 30,000 Mobile residents for a political purpose.
According to the civil complaint, which mirrors a separate accusation she is facing in a criminal federal indictment, Hastie ordered an employee to access motor vehicle records and gather the email addresses of all Mobile County residents who live within the city limits and place that personal information onto an electronic storage device.
“Hastie ordered that the electronic device be provided to defendants Chad Tucker of Stateco,” the complaint reads. “Tucker then knowingly utilized the personal information for a purpose not allowed under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) by sending out a mass email to over 30,000 Mobile County residents urging said residents to vote for a political candidate Stateco represented.”At the time, Tucker and Strateco were running the mayoral campaign of challenger Sandy Stimpson, and records suggest a mass email with Hastie’s endorsement of Stimpson was sent to at least some of those addresses in August 2013. The complaint charges that Hastie and Tucker both knew or should have known their actions would violate the DPPA.
Arnita Diamond and Labarron Yates, the same two individuals who filed an informal complaint making similar allegations against Mobile County in September 2014, filed the lawsuit in federal court yesterday.
In November, Hastie was indicted in a criminal case alleging she hid payments for a campaign to consolidate the offices of License and Revenue Commissions. Less than two months later, a superseding indictment added the charge regarding the emails. She is scheduled to go to trial in that case in May before federal judge Kristi Dubose.
In September 2014, calls to Diamond about the complaint sent to Mobile County were not returned and initial calls today have also gone unanswered.
Title 18 U.S. Code Section 2724 addresses violations of DPPA, and is cited in the lawsuit. According to that passage, damaged recovered for these violations could each come with a $2,500-per-violation penalty. That penalty, if applied to each of the 30,000 bits of information allegedly given to the Stimpson campaign, would total of more than $75 million.
Title 18 Section 2721 doesn’t mention a fee in writing, but it does expressly forbid any department of motor vehicles, and any officer, employee or contractor thereof, from knowingly disclosing or otherwise making personal information available to any person or entity.