Though I don't like the fact that carnival workers are singled out for background checks, at least it kept this one off the midway...http://www.nbc4i.com/midwest/cm...CMH-2008-07-21-0031.html County Background Check Policy Turns Up Sex Offender At County Fair
The summer season means local fairs and children's safety is top of mind. So how do parents know the fair workers who travel from city to city aren't sexual offenders?
The Union County prosecutor and sheriff's office fought to make it mandatory for carnival workers to get background checks, bringing to light a disturbing past for one of the workers with the ride company serving the county fair which began Sunday.
On July 10th the Marysville city council passed an emergency ordinance that required carnival companies working at the Union County fair to provide the names of their workers for criminal background checks.
When the Marysville police department conducted a background check of Kissel Brothers employees, 33 year old Robert lee Copes, a tier three sex offender out of Montgomery County, turned up.
“I really wanted to see this man and make sure everything matched. I showed him the picture on the electronic sex offender registration paper that I had. Asked him if that was his picture and he said it was,” said Marysville Chief of Police Floyd Golden.
State law forbids convicted sex offenders from living within a thousand feet of schools. The Union County fair grounds sit just inside that perimeter, therefore making it illegal for Copes to work on fair property.
Chief Golden tells NBC4, his department checked out all 40 Kissel Brothers employees. Besides Copes, the background checks turned up one employee with a felony larceny conviction and about five people with misdemeanor arrest warrants.
Jeannene Henault accompanies her 15 year old daughter, Lizzie to various county fairs as she shows her horse. She applauds the ordinance and is happy to learn it worked.
"She walks from one side of the fairgrounds to the other and I do work about that because you just don't know what's going to happen to your kids," expressed Henault.
NBC4 contacted a Kissel Brother's representative. Dwayne Macek told us Copes had just applied for a job. He says it the company’s policy to do background checks and not hire convicted sex offenders.
"I think it’s disturbing. I've got children. And I think that's the whole purpose of the law and I think its going to work and I think everybody has the right intention,” Macek said.
With the state fair set to begin on July 30th, NBC4 wanted to know what, if any background checks are done on workers, vendors and amusement ride employees.
Christina Leeds with the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair explained, "The fair hires approximately 900 seasonable personnel to help with fair activities that we host and that are our responsibility.”
Those employees hired by the state fair board...must pass a four step screening process. The Ohio State Patrol first conducts a wants and warrant check. That's followed by a check of the National Sex Offender Registry. Then, prospective fair workers must clear a search of the Franklin County Municipal Court records database. Finally, names are run through the Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections database.
But what about the hundreds of independent vendors that set up to sell their wares?
Leeds said hey leave background checks up to them. As for Amusement of America, the company that has provided the rides at the state fair for over 10 years, fair officials have no set policy in place that mandates they conduct them.
"What they will be doing this year is that they will be working with the Ohio State Patrol to do a check," stated Leeds.
A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would require carnival companies to work with Sheriffs offices statewide to get background checks done.
House bill 246 remains in committee.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. --Mark Twain