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Rye Golf Club is Poster Child in Pesticide Debacle Investigation

Investigative journalists at LoHud.com have been hard at work, and last year's pesticide debacle at Rye Golf Club is the centerpiece of their investgation concerning statewide misuse of toxic chemicals.


(PHOTO: Rye Golf Club, as it appears in a LoHud video.)

The story begins:

"A mysterious green residue started coating golfers’ shoes last spring at Rye Golf Club. Players joked about wiping the gunk off, but angry questions mounted as the lush course transformed into a field of dustbowls.

Within weeks all 18 putting greens closed, and the Westchester County enclave fell into chaos. Members demanded thousands of dollars in refunds, threatening to sue the city-owned club as turf experts combed it for clues.

The seemingly local crisis with political infighting, however, has grown into a regional environmental toxic time bomb as the Rye scandal triggered an investigation by The Journal News/lohud.com into the sale, distribution and use of pesticides."

And continues: "Authorities failed to catch the potentially illegal sale of an unregistered pesticide at Rye Golf Club, and golf courses in other states, according to the exclusive probe of the chemical industry’s underbelly."


(PHOTO: Rye City Manager Marcus Serrano was interviews for the LoHud.com investigative report.)

The piece goes on to detail the Rye Golf Club greens debacle, and also includes a video interview with Rye City Manager Marcus Serrano.

"Rye Golf Club, like nearly 900 other golf courses in New York, used pesticides with little government oversight.

Records detailing a potentially illegal pesticide sale at Rye’s club, and misuse of chemicals, only came to light after its course superintendent, Charles Lafferty, couldn’t hide the dying grass any longer, city and state documents obtained by The Journal News/lohud.com show.

When questioned by authorities, Lafferty said he improperly used the green-colored pesticide to hide dying grass before a golf tournament, resulting in the mystery residue that initially triggered suspicion last spring.

While the contaminated pesticide batch was responsible for killing the putting greens, Lafferty admitted to a violation for misusing pesticides and was fined $500.

The Rye scandal underscored how toxic-chemical abuse goes undetected until complaints pile up, or blatant signs of hazardous conditions emerge."

You can read the full LoHud.com piece here.

  1. From the official minutes of the December 15, 2015 meeting of the Rye City Council. (and 15 days prior to Charles Lafferty’s arrest by the NYS DEC on December 30, 2015)

    Item 5. Issues Update/Old Business.

    “Mayor Sack stated that earlier this year there were some concerns raised by Mr. Sculti, the chairperson of the Rye Golf Club Commission, with respect to activities at the Rye Golf Club.

    After these concerns were raised, the City Manager conducted an investigation. The City hired Vincent Toomey, who conducted a further investigation and Mr. Toomey spoke about his findings. Vincent Toomey, Esq., as consultant for the City of Rye, stated that he is the City’s labor counsel and has served in that capacity for over 20 years.

    After conducting his investigation he was happy to report that there was no misconduct involved in this particular case and in fact the investigation showed an exemplary performance by city personnel. Mr. Toomey reiterated the unfortunate situation with the greens in 2015.

    He stated while there was a question as to whether Rye personnel contributed to this incident, Mr. Toomey learned quickly that there was no misconduct. (Actually he uses the phrase there was “no contributory negligence.”) There were very minor issues that could be improved, but there was certainly no wrongdoing. The City of Rye hired experts for the greens who all concluded that this was a tragic situation, but not one that any personnel had an impact on.

    Mr. Toomey stated that there was no way that the Golf Manager or superintendent would have known that this product was defective. Minor corrective commendations will be presented to the City Council shortly, but Mr. Toomey praised City personnel.

    Lastly, he stated that there should be a sense that City personnel are acting appropriately and should be continuing their jobs.

    Mayor Sack thanked Mr. Toomey for his thorough job on the investigation and report. Earlier unrelated incidents has (SIC) led to this level of scrutiny.

    Mayor Sack stated there is a need to start a healing process in which the community appreciates the good work from the City personnel. He encouraged personnel to keep up the good work, and reminded residents to raise issues that exist. The City Manager is able to manage questions and feedback of personnel.

    Mayor Sack stated that this instance was a good exercise to examine whether matters are being handled appropriately.”

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