This is interesting.... In local paper today. State fines Manlius lawn-care company $ 3,500.00 Lawn flags spread misleading information about pesticide law, attorney general says. Monday, May 28, 2001 A Manlius lawn-care company must pay a $3,500 penalty after placing its lawn flags in front of local homes in what state officials called a deceptive and fraudulent advertising campaign. Lawn-A-Mat of Syracuse left pink flags on the lawns of homeowners near its customers this spring. The flags spread misleading information about a state law requiring neighbors to be notified of pesticide use, according to state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "New Yorkers have legitimate concerns about the health and environmental impacts of lawn-care pesticides," Spitzer said. "This company took advantage of those concerns with a blatantly false ad campaign." Under terms of a settlement with the attorney general, Lawn-A-Mat and its owner, Gerald Rubenstein of Manlius, agreed to stop the ad campaign and offer customers a chance to terminate their contracts if they signed up for service as a result of the fraudulent ads, Spitzer said. The attorney general began investigating Lawn-A-Mat this spring after receiving complaints from residents of DeWitt, who found the company's pink flags posted on their lawns, or fliers on their doorknobs. The company does business throughout Onondaga County. Rubenstein, one of the leading local opponents of a state law that would require neighbors to be notified 48 hours before commercial pesticide spraying, said he was simply trying to raise awareness about the proposal. The flags informed neighbors their property was "within 48-hour notification range" of one of Lawn-A-Mat's customers. Words on the flags suggested that Rubenstein was exempt from the proposed notification law, unlike other pesticide applicators, because he uses "specialized equipment." The notice encouraged anyone with questions to call the Onondaga County Legislature. "This flag was neither pro or against the law," said Rubenstein, who has been in the lawn-care business for 39 years. "All I wanted people to do was call and find out about it. The whole purpose of that flag was to raise that issue to the general public." Assistant Attorney General Winthrop Thurlow, who is in charge of the attorney general's Syracuse regional office, said the flags falsely claimed to be a public notice required by state law. "The disturbing part of Lawn-A-Mat's flags is that they suggested that the company was somehow exempted from the neighbor notification law," Thurlow said. "But there are no exemptions for special equipment. Those exemptions apply only to the particular method of application." Thurlow said he did not know how many lawn flags were distributed. In August, Gov. George Pataki signed the nation's first law to require neighbors and parents to be notified at least 48 hours before pesticides are sprayed on residential lawns, at schools or at day-care centers. The state law automatically covers schools and day-care centers, requiring them to inform parents before pesticides are sprayed. But the law allows counties to decide whether commercial pesticide applicators must provide notice to neighbors of residential properties they are spraying. Neighbors on adjacent properties within 150 feet of where pesticides are sprayed would have to be notified by lawn-care companies 48 hours before the spraying, according to the law. The law also would require homeowners who did their own spraying to post notification flags. Homeowners would have to display the flags only when they treat more than 100 square feet of their property with pesticide spray. The law does not cover granular pesticides. To date, neighbor notification laws have been approved in Albany, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. But Onondaga County legislators decided to delay their decision, even after two public hearings on the issue, including one hearing earlier this month at which Rubenstein voiced his opposition to the law. Rubenstein said Friday that he has self-contained equipment that can hold no more than 32 ounces of pesticides for use in spot spraying, where there is no risk of the spray drifting to neighboring properties. He said the lawn flags were never intended to mislead the public. "As far as I was concerned, it was an informative piece, and I was never out to deceive the public," he said. "Why would I need to do that, after almost 40 years in business? I had no idea anybody would be interpreting this the way they did." © 2001 The Syracuse Newspapers. Used with permission.