A convicted sex offender, thieves, and drug dealers were among carnival workers at Illinois community events this summer, said an investigation reported by the Chicago Tribune. In background checks at five events, the Illinois attorney general’s office and Cook County sheriff’s department found that among 179 carnival employees, there had been 556 arrests and 125 convictions. Police officials and some lawmakers are calling for legislation that would require background checks for carnival workers.
No state requires background checks, said Bob Johnson of the Florida-based Outdoor Amusement Business Association. “I think it’s unfair that this industry is singled out,” he said. “For someone who has been convicted, served his time and is now released and rehabilitated, they have a right to work as well.” A worker with a criminal background sexually assaulted three children at a local festival two years ago. If legislation requires companies to do background checks, it might force them to pass costs on to cash-strapped county fairs, said Tom Ostermeier of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs.