WKYC.com, By Phil Trexler and Marisa Saenz, Posted May 30th 2022
Things were different in Cedar Point during the summer of 2021.
The park’s opening didn’t deliver the usual fanfare. Instead of accolades, the opening brought complaints of closed rides, long concession lines and black-out dates.
Like other businesses, Cedar Point was in a fight for workers amid a world-wide pandemic.
In late May that year, weeks after the opening, the word was put out in press releases and social media accounts: Cedar Point was offering workers $20 an hour to come to the shores of Lake Erie in Sandusky.
Their offer to double worker pay made national news and applicants responded in droves. And the Cedar Point human resources office sent a message to its staff.
“Hire, hire, hire,” said a former park recruiter. “Twenty-five people a day,,,every single person needs [to recruit] 100 a week.”
“That’s when the pressure really started to get on us. Breathing on our necks on how many hires we have.”
Raven Jones, then 18, was one of those hired in 2021. She sensed the urgency during her phone interview.
“Cedar Point wanted me to come work for them before I even graduated [high school],” she recalled. “I’m like slow down, I want to graduate first, especially if I have to live in the dorms.”
In June, Jones signed on to work in food services and live in the employee dorms.
By August, she’d join a group of 27 Cedar Point employees to file police reports alleging she was sexual assaulted. Each assault happened inside the park’s employee dorms. Only three have resulted in criminal charges.
A 3News Investigates review of those reports to Sandusky police show that most – 10 in all – were filed that summer.
To the former Cedar Point recruiters, it now seems so inevitable. They each contend that background checks required for new hires were delayed, but those delays did not stop the massive hiring campaign.
“We would tell the head manager about these red flags,” one said. “But they’re like, ‘No, no. We need ride operators, just bring them on’. And that was very alarming and very concerning.”
Cedar Point officials have steadfastly refused to answer questions on the 3News Investigates series, which has outlined the sexual assaults and complaints that the park does little to provide security in their housing units.
Aside from the sexual assaults, former workers say the dorms were filled instances of underage alcohol use and drug use. Cedar Point has also refused to release any police reports its own police officers may have taken.
In a statement, a park spokesman said:
“Cedar Point conducts background checks on new hire associates. It has been our longstanding practice and it continues to be a vital tool in our hiring process. If there are issues uncovered in the background check that could jeopardize the health and safety of our associates or guests, we take appropriate action up to and including termination of the associate.”
Last summer was the only year these women worked as recruiters. They have each worked for the park for several years in ride or game operations.
They recall meetings in human resources where they and others voiced concerns over the rapid hiring frenzy and the potential for troubles.
“We’d look at [our supervisor] and say we’re very concerned with the background situation…because we feel so uncomfortable hiring people that has these charges on them. They could be dangerous to associates and guests.”
Those worries, they said, were confirmed later that summer when a young woman came in and said she was sexually assaulted.
And another when a South Carolina mother drove to Sandusky in mid-summer to bring her daughter home.
“The reason why she was quitting was because her daughter woke up and a guy was sexually assaulting her roommate in the same room,” a recruiter said.
They also say another employee was fired after a background check confirmed multiple prior convictions, including a sexual offense involving a minor.
They said they relayed the mother’s story to their superiors. Their worries were dismissed, they said.
“She just kind of blew it off and was just like, don’t get involve that not really your concern.”
It’s unclear if either sexual assault case was sent to police. Cedar Point refuses to release any reports taken by its police department. It’s unclear if the cases stem from the 27 reports released to 3News by Sandusky police.
“That’s what we have biggest concern about what can come out this and now we have all of these stories [of sexual assaults] coming out and we warned them about it,” one recruiter said.
“We warned them so many times.”