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Attorneys general at the state fair

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There are only a few days left to experience corndogs, lemon shakeups, deep-fried butter, doughnut hamburgers, a ride on the Ferris wheel, the various farm animals brought to Indianapolis by 4-H members from around Indiana, and other attractions of the Indiana State Fair.

While some things are new this year – a show featuring bears and an exhibit that explores the culture of Japan, for instance – one that most fairgoers will likely not even notice is the recently enhanced partnership between the state attorney general’s office and the state fair.

For the duration of this year’s fair, two deputy attorneys general from the Advisory and ADR Services Division have been at the fair for part of the time, and were on call at other times just in case they were needed for potential legal situations.

Fair Ann Mullin O’Connor (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Anne Mullin O’Connor and Susan Gard had worked with the fair in the past, but after the person who was handling contracts for the fair left, the fair worked out an agreement with the AG’s office instead of hiring someone to replace that full-time employee.

The fair also split that former employee’s duties among other offices, but this solution was a creative way for the state to save some money, O’Connor said, adding she has enjoyed being able to work with and at the fair this summer.

Part of the job Gard and O’Connor took on was to help improve and streamline the fair’s contracts, something executive director Cindy Hoye said has always been a priority.

With the thousands of contracts the fair handles every year having to do with vendors, exhibitors, the midway, animals, performers, and others, she said much attention must be paid to the details.

“For the contracts we issue, those are updated all the time,” she said. “We believe our business approach is that we are doing a great job, and we can always do better. … We usually discover something that gives us cause to pause on some use of terminology or how we could better word things to improve the process.”

And the contracts vary widely even for seemingly similar events, O’Connor said.

For instance, a concert with a band like KISS, who performed to a sold-out crowed of about 13,000 Aug. 9, would have different issues than Selena Gomez, who is known for her roles on Disney Channel shows and performed to a much different audience Aug. 15.

She said the contracts are probably more or less the same as any other concert, “but there just happens to be a fair going on around the concert.”

Hoye said the contracts for performers include fairly standard language, but include some fair-specific clauses including alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the fair grounds, and that performers need to be aware profanity is not encouraged.

“It’s not our intent to censor the performers, but we want them to be sensitive to the family-oriented nature of the fair,” she said, adding that someone who happens to be at the fair during a performance, but not actually sitting in the grandstands, might still overhear what the performers are saying.

She said the performers on the smaller stages have “boiled down” versions of the contracts of the grand-stand performers.

Other than contracts, Gard and O’Connor have been available to make sure safety precautions are followed in terms of how the animals are handled, and safety for the visitors – food preparation, midway rides – and to make sure Red Cross workers are handy in the event someone is overcome with heat-related illnesses.

“The No. 1 priority is to make sure customers and vendors and exhibitors and employees have a safe place to come and visit,” Hoye said. “That’s our No. 1 priority. After it’s safe, then we’ll entertain them.”

For instance, the fair has a 23-page booklet about the handling and care of animals, and a 43-page booklet for the fair’s biosecurity plan. The latter contains information about hand-washing stations, which are all over the fairgrounds, and directions about how to prepare and use bleach solution for cleaning when needed.

O’Connor said there is also a strong presence of state police and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers at the fair to keep an eye on things. While she said there typically isn’t much criminal activity at the fair, compared to other state fairs Indianapolis is in a more urban location, making it more accessible and more diverse than other state fairs.

She added the AG’s office would help handle any claims of slip-and-fall injuries. This would include a visit to the site of the reported incident to determine what happened and what would potentially need to be fixed to address those claims.

But Hoye and O’Connor said that the fair’s main purpose is to focus on the agricultural aspects of Indiana. This year’s focus is pork, but beyond that they said the fair strives to encourage a good atmosphere for Indiana residents to learn about farms and the animals, while giving 4-H participants and others a chance to share what they’ve done over the year.

But like any contest, there are rules to be followed – something Gard or O’Connor could be called in on. However, O’Connor said that most of the animal areas already have their own experts to act as mediators to handle most incidents.

And in the past when there have been problems involving contestants – mainly positive drug tests of the champions and/or random participants, or when the person presenting the animal isn’t the same person who raised the animal – there is an appeals process. But in most cases, that person will usually admit he got caught doing something wrong. Of all the contestants, there is maybe only one appeal per year, sometimes none, but usually no more than three.

Overall, O’Connor said she didn’t anticipate any major issues, and had nothing to report as of Aug. 13. She said with this job, “You never know where you’ll end up. That’s what makes it fun. It’s not like the standard state job where you’re at a desk all day.” •

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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