The Washington State Fair doesn’t know whether a man charged with indecent exposure had been working with the fair’s youngest visitors as he claimed, and it didn’t appear Friday officials planned to find out.
Police arrested 58-year-old Ernest Volk on Tuesday for allegedly exposing himself in the yard of a Tacoma home. He reportedly told officers he worked in a kids play area of the fair.
Volk has two misdemeanor offenses for similar sexual behavior from more than 15 years ago.
Fair spokeswoman Stacy Howard reiterated Friday that Volk was an employee of Funtastic, the Oregon-based company that serves as the fair’s carnival operator, and that he has been fired.
She said Funtastic was investigating. Two calls by The News Tribune to the company’s Portland office this week were not returned.
Asked whether fair officials were going to follow up with Funtasic to determine if Volk had worked in SillyVille, the carnival area that caters to little kids, she said:
“We trust whatever decision they made. We trust they’re doing the investigation. We’re not going to micromanage their investigation or how they hire, because they’ve done a great job.”
When The News Tribune asked to speak to Kent Hojem, the fair’s chief executive Officer, Howard said he would not comment.
“He’s not going to talk about it,” she said.
No one answered an office number The News Tribune had listed for Hojem on Friday, and the number did not appear to have an answering machine.
Howard said Funtastic officials told the fair they had done a background check before hiring Volk, but it wasn’t clear what type of check was done or how far back it went.
In 2013, Funtastic fired three workers who were Level 1 sex offenders — those least likely to reoffend — at the beginning of the fair, after the company learned of their past crimes.
Police said at the time that wasn’t unusual, that about three to five sex offenders a year were fired from the fair for false information on their applications.
The next year Funtastic expanded its background check, so that all ride and game operators went through a felony background check. SillyVille workers got a second check that looked for other arrests and criminal activity.
Before 2014, SillyVille workers (about one-third of the fair’s ride operators) and some other employees went through background checks.
Volk has a 1998 misdemeanor conviction of second-degree criminal trespass, and one in 1999 for indecent conduct.
In the first case, he hid in a hedge to watch a 13-year-old girl sunbathe. In the second, he masturbated in public, including in front of children near a Tacoma park.
In Tuesday’s incident, Volk pleaded not guilty at his arraignment to indecent exposure and drug possession. According to charging papers, he masturbated in front of a Tacoma residence, and had methamphetamine in his pocket.
Police said he told officers he might have been urinating, but had not been masturbating. Witnesses contradicted that account.
He also allegedly told police he’d snorted meth Monday at work at the fair, but then said he had not.
Court records did not list an attorney for him.