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Published: Saturday, 8/3/2013

Couple’s ban from county fair upheld by federal judge

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rides spin as fair goers walk the grounds in the sunshine during this year's Wood County Fair Tuesday in Bowling Green. Rides spin as fair goers walk the grounds in the sunshine during this year's Wood County Fair Tuesday in Bowling Green.
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A Pemberville couple who were banned from attending the Wood County Fair this year and for the next two years lost their bid to enter the fairground gates this week.

U.S. District Court Judge James Carr denied a request for a temporary restraining order against the Wood County Fair Board by Linette and Dan Kemner, who filed suit in federal court in March alleging the board had violated their civil rights, including the right to due process, in banning them without notice or an opportunity to be heard.

On July 18, the couple filed an emergency motion for a restraining order, which Judge Carr denied July 26 but issued a full opinion on this week.

According to the judge’s nine-page opinion, a contestant in the fair’s lamb show accused the Kemners’ son and two other boys of spitting on his lamb during the fair in 2012. Jayne Roth, an Ohio State University extension agent who oversees the junior livestock shows, “physically accosted the boys and detained them while investigating the incident.”

“Roth ordered Linette to leave the area, but Linette refused,” Judge Carr wrote in his opinion. “Roth then became irate and threatened to eject Linette from the fair. Roth also demanded apologies from the boys while threatening to eject them. [The Kemners’] son and the other boys eventually apologized, and Roth did not expel anyone from the fairgrounds.”

The next day Mrs. Kemner contacted Ms. Roth’s supervisor and complained about her behavior. Wood County Sheriff’s deputies were called and served the Kemners with notice that they had been banned from attending the rest of the 2012 fair, although their children were allowed to attend.

The fair board later voted unanimously to ban them from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 fairs because of the behavior issues. In June, the board held a hearing where the Kemners were invited to address the board and again voted unanimously to uphold the three-year ban.

“Were I to issue a temporary restraining order requiring defendants to permit plaintiffs entry to the fairgrounds, there is [a] possibility of another disruption this year,” Judge Carr wrote.

“It is apparent that a good deal of ill will — whether founded or unfounded — exists between plaintiffs and Roth. Issuing a temporary restraining order raises the possibility of undermining, on the basis of very sparse record, defendants’ efforts to provide an orderly fair exemplifying the ideals of the sponsoring organizations.”

The Kemners’ suit, which remains pending in federal court, seeks a lift of the ban and monetary damages from the fair board as well as the Wood County Agricultural Society, Ms. Roth, and fair manager Richard King.

Robert Searfoss, III, attorney for the Kemners, could not be reached for comment.

This year’s county fair in Bowling Green began Monday and runs through next Monday.



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