By Justin Sondel
Mayor Paul Dyster’s brother-in-law's company has been awarded a pesticide contract for the city’s golf course.
Last week the council unanimously approved a contract worth $12,250 for Turf USA Lawn Care to apply pesticides at the city’s golf course in what Department of Public Works Director Dave Kinney described as an emergency situation.
The city’s former arborist and horticulturist has applied the pesticides in years past, but he retired suddenly in August leaving Kinney with no staff members that hold certifications required by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to apply pesticides, as is required by law.
“I have nobody on staff who can put those chemicals down,” Kinney said.
Kinney’s staff contacted Turf USA Lawn Care because they have a good reputation in the area.
The director did not know that Charles Calabro, the owner of the lawn care company, is related to Dyster by marriage – Calabro’s brother is married to the mayor’s wife Becky Dyster’s sister – until a Gazette reporter asked him about a possible conflict of interest on Monday.
“We reached out to Turf USA because I knew he had the qualifications,” Kinney said. “I had no idea.”
Calabro did not return calls seeking comment Monday.
Kinney said he needed to act quickly, as the pesticides are necessary in proper care for the golf course and failure to put them down could mean terrible conditions for next year’s season.
“You lose the greens, you ain’t getting them back,” he said.
And if DPW went out to bid for the work it would take weeks, if not months, for a contractor to be selected, Kinney said.
"We've spent a lot of money on this golf course and I needed someone to get in there quick," he said.
Dyster said he did not know that Turf USA Lawn Care had been selected as the contractor for the pesticide work until a request from Kinney arrived on his desk two weeks ago.
Dyster had Councilman Charles Walker, who is acting mayor in Dyster’s absence, sign the resolution presented to council to avoid the appearance of a conflict.
“I didn’t have anything to do with picking it,” Dyster said.
Dyster said Kinney choose Calabro for the job completely independently and because he is a local businessman well qualified for the job.
Dyster felt the city needed to move forward with the contract to ensure that the work was completed on time, he added.
“He’s reasonably prominent and local,” Dyster said.