Representatives of the Union County Fair Board and the Greater Ohio Showman's Association (GOSA) said they support the idea of expanding background checks for individuals involved in public events who have access to children.

Representatives of the Union County Fair Board and the Greater Ohio Showman's Association (GOSA) said they support the idea of expanding background checks for individuals involved in public events who have access to children.

That was the consensus after two hours of discussion Wednesday night at Marysville City Council's public affairs committee meeting.

Committee chair Leah Sellers called the meeting after council approved emergency legislation in July requiring all "carnival workers" be subjected to background checks to identify sexual predators and any workers with outstanding felony warrants.

Union County prosecutor David Phillips, who authored the legislation, less than two weeks before the start of the 2008 Union County Fair, said it worked.

As a result of the background checks, Marysville Police discovered that Robert Lee Copes Jr., 33, described by police as a homeless man from Dayton and a Tier III sexual offender, was listed as an employee of Kissel Brothers, the amusement company hired for the fair. Copes was convicted of gross sexual imposition or an offense against a child under the age of 13, Phillips said. Copes was fired by the amusement company when this was discovered.

Phillips said the original legislation he proposed would have prohibited that man from working at the fair, but that after meeting with Marysville city administration officials, they urged him to remove that prohibition. The final legislation only required the amusement company to submit a list of its employees for background checks. As the ordinance is currently written, sexual predators are not prohibited from working on the fairgrounds.

Marysville's director of administration, Jillian Froment, said the decision not to include a prohibition in the ordinance was carefully thought out.

"In collaboration with prosecutor Phillips, the city worked to develop an ordinance that would ensure the safety of Marysville citizens, while not overly infringing on the rights of amusement companies to run their businesses," Froment said. "This ordinance provides a method to identify sexual offenders/predators that an amusement company intends to employ at the county fair and allows the city of Marysville to then enforce existing state and city prohibitions applicable to these sexual offenders/predators."

At the time when the legislation was approved, GOSA spokesman Andy Pocock said that while the amusement industry was in favor of protecting children from sexual offenders, they felt the language of the ordinance was discriminatory with its emphasis on "carnival workers."

Union County Fair Board members Tony Bowersmith, Dale Madison , Pat McGuire and Ron Schilling agreed, saying references to the fair should be expanded to include other community festivals and events.

Pocock asked again during Wednesday night's committee meeting that a wider net be cast to include others who have contact with children, including 4-H advisers, entertainers, food service workers, vendors and restroom attendants.

Councilman John Marshall expressed concerns about the language used in the ordinance at the time of its passage. Marshall also said he was uncomfortable with the legislation being presented at the last minute, days before the start of the 2008 fair, but did not oppose it because he felt the intent of the ordinance was to protect children.

Marshall said he favored looking at the length of time that an event lasts as a factor in it being covered by the ordinance.

"It's not the one day event that we're worried about," he said.

During Wednesday night's committee meeting, Sellers raised the issue of expanding the background checks to include community events, festivals and other gatherings where adults have access to children.

Sellers said she was concerned about any public event held in the city "where children are potentially alone and vulnerable to attack."

That led to a discussion of which individuals and events should be subject to the ordinance. While those issues remain to be resolved, the general consensus of those attending the meeting was that the ordinance should be amended to make it more inclusive.

Council's Deborah Groat said she favors efforts to protect children but wants to make sure the intent of the legislation isn't altered to make the ordinance "a net for prosecution purposes."

Police Chief Floyd Golden assured her that would not happen. "Really, we're just looking for registered sex offenders," Golden said.

All parties involved agreed to meet again at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15 to continue the discussion.