Stagehands union to get day in court over State Fair search warrant


INDIANAPOLIS - A Marion County Judge has agreed to take on the battle over records between a union and the state agency investigating the State Fair stage collapse.

13 Investigates first uncovered the hot issue over who employed the workers that put up the rigging back in September. (See those stories here and here).

Now internal emails show how the standoff escalated to search warrants.

When state inspectors showed up at the Stagehands Union headquarters Thursday armed with search warrants for Local 30, it wasn't their first surprise visit.

Investigators of the stage collapse have shown up twice before looking for records without a warrant, but each time left empty handed.

Now the battle over records is headed to court next Wednesday.

The union's attorney filed an emergency motion.

"We just think the way they're going about this is entirely heavy handed, and inappropriate, and that's what we're going to be telling the judge," said Groth of his upcoming day in court.

The Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration isn't talking publicly, but seeking payroll and tax records..disciplinary files and training records for Nathan Byrd and eight other union members who were injured, assigned or referred by Local 30 to the State Fair.

"We don't employ these people, we never did employ these people," Groth told 13 Investigates.

Groth says the workers were employees of the State Fair Commission.

It's been a contentious issue since September, when IOSHA tried to interview one of the stage hands.

In an internal email Groth tells the Attorney General's office, "The interview..did not take place due to disagreements between IOSHA representatives and Local 30's busines manager"

He explained that Local 30 had become "concerned over their I(IOSHA's) confrontational and accusatory demeanor."

Weeks later, Groth fired off a two-page letter saying there were quote, "...insinuations that the workers involved in erecting the roof structure were themselves to blame."

Groth also questioned the state's actions, saying, "it failed to follow its own evacuation policy in the face of clear and unequivocal warnings."

Now he questions whether there's a conflict of interest and, "Whether the state might be engaged in an effort to try to shift blame."

While the investigation into the alleged responsible parties heats up, the structural investigation will also pick up beginning Monday, October 17th. That's when investigators will begin the very first steps in dismantling the stage.

Fifty-five total tort claims have been filed alerting the state that individuals injured in the tragedy plan to make a claim against the $5 million liability fund for the state. While the number of claims to this fund continues to grow, the State Fair Commission is urging victims to take advantage of the State Fair Relief Fund which allows those who were hospitalized or the families of the seven who died to receive public donations.

Nearly $900,000 have been collected. Only $278,000 has been distributed. A total of 19 victims have filed claims, with 17 processed including six estates representing those who died. Those who want to make a claim only have until November 14th to file. All monies left over after that will be prorated and split between the total number of claimants who file.