VISALIA – A Visalia-based company offering test preparation classes for a pesticide applicator licenses was fined $50,000 for violating state law.
The company, P&L Marketing Inc., claimed on its website that it offers people a one-day preparation class that helps them pass California Agricultural Pesticide License Exams on the first attempt with “a proven track record of success.” Classes were often held at the Visalia Convention Center.
After receiving a tip, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) carried out an investigation and discovered that P&L Marketing was giving material to its students that was remarkably similar to the official DPR exam. In fact, more than half of the questions were identical or nearly identical to DPR’s official exam due to be given the next day. At one of its “Pest Control Pilot Exam Prep Class” held on July 13, 2018, P&L Marketing’s exam had 141 questions and answers that were identical or nearly identical to questions on the DPR’s official examinations, including questions specific to landscape maintenance, plant agriculture and microbial pest control. Further investigation revealed that many of the 20-plus exams that were to be given to potential licensees had also been compromised.
The test launched a six-month investigation that resulted in a $49,350 fine for P&L for the unauthorized possession, reproduction and distribution of parts of DPR licensing exams.
“Part of DPR’s function is to ensure that pesticides, including those used in agriculture, are handled properly and the individuals handling them are properly trained and licensed,” said Teresa Marks, Chief Deputy Director of DPR. “These exams are a way of ensuring that applicators have the required knowledge of how to apply pesticides in a manner that does not adversely affect themselves, other individuals, or the environment. People who cheat the system can inadvertently endanger the public.”
The agreement, signed by company representative Paul D. Schrumpf on Dec. 16, said P&L Marketing admitted to violating California Food and Agricultural Code Section 11792, subdivision (e), which makes it unlawful to “cheat on or subvert a licensing examination”. This includes the unauthorized possession, reproduction or distribution of any portion of the actual licensing exam. As a result, the company has agreed to pay the fine. Calls to P&L were not returned as of press time.
DPR has re-written many exams to continue to ensure the integrity of its examination process and will be increasing its focus on this issue in the future.
This follows a spate of incidents in 2018 in which DPR’s investigations discovered offenders who falsified records and violated other laws designed to ensure that pesticide applicators are properly trained and licensed before offering their services to the public. DPR fined two other offenders for pesticide licensing violations in 2018.
This year, DPR said it will step up enforcement actions against those who violate pesticide licensing laws and potentially endanger people and the environment.