Fair fear: employees not screened regularly, consistently

Stay a little longerThere’s something new to keep in mind when it comes to visiting your state and local fairs this summer and fall, and it’s not your cholesterol after consuming new iterations of unusual fried goodies. Two companies that are hired out to various fairs and carnivals in Washington and Oregon have had problems with hiring criminals that may have put innocent children at risk. Both Butler Amusements and Funtastic, companies that are contracted by state and local fairs to operate games and rides, have hired sex offenders for roles in which the offender would be in direct contact with children. Unfortunately, federal law does not require fairs to conduct background checks, and states don’t either, so there are no standards for conducting criminal background checks in the circuit. Because of this, Butler Amusements hired sex offenders for at least two consecutive years, including criminals charged or awaiting trial on charges of child molestation and child pornography. Meanwhile, Funtastic had to fire three registered sex offenders that it hired and allowed to work around children before their background check results came back. Though, since it is not required by law to conduct checks, Funtastic does not screen all employees; it only screens employees that are likely to have “the most access to children.” In 2012, after a woman who was awaiting trial on charges of child molestation was hired to work in the kids’ zone at the Evergreen State Fair in Washington, the fair began running background checks and requiring Butler Amusements to do their own checks as well. But Butler admits that it only conducts background checks when a fair specifically asks for them. Even then, at least one employee has passed background checks using a fake name and social security number. In light of these new fairground investigations, Washington State Representative Liz Pike and Sen. Ann Rivers have said they will begin working on legislation that will require fair workers to undergo stricter screening processes in their state. When you’re out this summer enjoying the rides, snacks and games your fair offers, be aware that the employees may or may not have undergone background checks. Tell security if you see anything unusual or inappropriate while you’re out. photo credit: Mark J P via photopin cc]]>

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