COLUMBUS — Traveling carnival companies in Ohio would have to provide police with the names of all employees under proposed legislation.
The bill comes after a court-ordered check of a carnival company by Athens County Prosecutor David Warren last year revealed many of the company’s workers had prior felony convictions, back child support orders and outstanding warrants for their arrest.
The carnival employee proposal would require the owner or operator of a licensed concession, food wagon or amusement ride to provide the names and Social Security numbers of all employees to local law enforcement within 48 hours of a specific request for the data.
Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief John Conley said the proposal would help police investigate the backgrounds of carnival workers, who often travel quickly through the state from county fair to county fair.
The bill isn’t a reflection on carnivals or carnival employees, Conley said, “it just is a tool to help us better safeguard our community.”
Warren, who testified in support of the measure before the Ohio House’s Civil and Commercial Law Committee this week, said he was motivated to create the bill after he had to fight with a carnival company to see their employee records last summer.
A week after authorities responded to a fight at a carnival in a nearby county, Warren said he saw a man dressed as a clown was acting suspiciously and targeting young women at the Athens County Fair.
“This clown, I literally mean a clown in makeup and everything, was asking these girls if they wanted to feel his muscle,” Warren said.
Warren was rebuffed by the amusement company owner when he requested the names of employees so police could run background checks. The company refused to release the names and the dispute went to court, where a judge eventually ruled in Warren’s favor.
By then the carnival had left town.
Ten of the 35 employee records provided by the company had fictitious Social Security numbers. Of the remaining 25 records, nine people had prior felony convictions, two had outstanding warrants and two had outstanding back child support orders totaling more than $89,000, Warren said.
Warren said he was floored by the information, and Rep. Jimmy Stewart, the bill’s sponsor, agreed.
Stewart, a Republican from Albany, said that it only makes sense that law enforcement officers know the backgrounds of the people who work around children at traveling carnivals.
“We trust them with the security and safety of our children at these fairs,” he said.