by James Pero
Staff Writer, Rye City Review
Rye golf club grounds keeper, Charles “Chip” Lafferty, pleaded guilty to a violation regarding the misuse of a restricted pesticide on Tuesday, April 5 in Rye city court after an anonymous complaint filed with the New York State Department of Environmental raised flags about potential misconduct.
The charge–which resulted in a $500 fine–was amended and reduced from and an original pesticide violation classified as a misdemeanor under state Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, law.
According to DEC records obtained by the Review through a Freedom of Information Law request, Lafferty's charges stem from a complaint received by the department on Dec. 12, 2015 regarding what a complainant described as Lafferty's "misuse" of a pesticide at Rye golf club.
This misapplication, according to the complaint, resulted in extensive damage to the club’s greens, which necessitated the club’s closure for a significant portion of its peak summer season; between Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends.
Lafferty also applied what turned out to be a tainted pesticide to the greens. That product became the subject of a recent lawsuit settlement between the city and Tesenderlo Kerley Inc., TKI, the distributor of the contaminated pesticide called Alt-70. TKI settled out of court and awarded the city $2.5 million for the damages to the city-owned golf course.
While the lawsuit over the club greens, which was concluded in December 2015, found that the damage experience at Rye Golf Club was a result of the contaminated pesticide, DEC records also show that the same product was applied over the legal limit by Lafferty prior to the damage taking place.
"The application records that I have available at this time indicate that the Alt-70 product was applied more frequently then required on three occasions," a DEC representative explained in a report to his superiors.
According to the representative, while the pesticide Alt-70 was supposed to of been applied once at 14 day intervals, application records show that between April 22 and May 15, less than a month span, the product was applied four times in total.
This information, however, contradicts what city officials have stated; that Lafferty never over-applied the contaminated pesticide. City Manager Marcus Serrano told the Review in January that Lafferty did not exceed the label dosage.
"To clarify, Chip actually didn't 'over-apply' or 'double the amount;' he actually used a lower then labeled rate at a lower interval," Serrano said at that time via email. "Chip was issued a summons for applying the product Alt-70 outside of labeled instructions only once."
When reached by phone this week, Serrano said, "I heard it was one time, I really don't know. That's something the DEC has to deal with."
Serrano added that he had not seen the DEC's report.
City Attorney Kristen Wilson represented Lafferty during his multiple appearances in Rye City Court, and told the Review that she was representing Lafferty in her private capacity as a lawyer and not on behalf of the city. Wilson also declined to comment on the case when reached by phone on Wednesday, April 6.
City officials have adamantly defended Lafferty through this process and although the groundskeeper pleaded guilty this week there is no indication that the city plans to reprimand him.
Reprinted from The Rye City Review April 8, 2016 issue