Ride company says state scrutiny is retaliation for inspection criticism

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Only on 4, we continue our Inspecting the Inspectors series. Two brothers who have been very critical of the state’s ride inspection program are now under scrutiny by the state — and questioning whether its retaliation for their harsh opinions.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture said Bates Amusement broke the law at a county fair this summer. Bates Amusements said it didn’t do anything wrong.

At a heated Ohio Ride Advisory Board meeting in October, Bates Amusement owners Geary Bates and his son in law Al Bozich spoke out about Ohio’s ride inspection program. The next month they got a letter from the ODA saying they broke the law by interfering with an inspection at the Delaware County Fair over the summer. The ODA said it sent the letter because Bozich confessed at that meeting to violating the law by taking flagging ribbons down put up by an inspector.

Bates and Bozich said they were shocked to get the letter.

“We want to work with them but it just doesn’t seem like they want to work with us,” said Bozich.

Bozich said at the Delaware County Fair September 16th an inspector circled what he deemed problems on belly pans from one of their rides in permanent marker. He said the inspector then flagged lap bars with orange ribbons. Bozich admits to removing the ribbons, but said he didn’t break the law.

“I took the ribbon down,” said Bozich.

The letter said Bates Amusement violated Ohio’s amusement ride safety law and related rules by, “interfering with any inspector in the performance of his inspection” by removing flagging ribbons put up by an inspector without ODA’s approval.

Bozich said the ribbons never should have been put on in the first place because nothing was ever wrong with the ride.

“They shut down three-quarters of the tubs that were tagged. They defaced the car beds with permanent marker that cannot be removed, circling a situation that was never a situation,” said Bozich.

After Bozich provided proof from the manufacturer the ride was maintained to the manufacturer’s standards, the ODA said the ride was deemed safe and passed inspection.

Bozich said if inspectors were getting the proper information and training they would have known the ride was fine to begin with.

“The bottom line to this is if the inspector knew his job and knew that all those indications were fine, I knew that, I don’t feel it’s my job to prove to the inspector how to do his job,” he said.

The ODA said it’s up to operators to provide information from manufacturers and prove the ride is safe if inspectors have concerns. The ODA said it’s not proposing any penalties or fines at this time. It declined to speak on camera.

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