(July 31, 8:40 a.m.) Just one day after announcing that Washington Apple Commission president Dave Carlson had been placed on administrative leave, the commission’s board voted to launch a search for an interim replacement.

There is an indication, however, that not everyone in the Washington apple industry approves of Carlson’s departure.

During a July 30 apple commission board meeting — conducted by telephone and lasting less than four minutes — board president Cragg Gilbert, owner of Gilbert Orchards Inc., Yakima, Wash., requested and received approval to name a search committee of Mark Zirkle and Dalton Thomas. Zirkle is president of Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash.; Thomas owns Oneonta Trading Corp., Wenatchee, Wash.

Before the vote on the search committee, nonboard member John Borton, a partner in Borton and Sons Inc., Yakima, questioned the pending departure of Carlson.

“I’d like an explanation, of which none of us really got why we’re replacing Dave,” Borton said.

Gilbert refused to discuss the matter.

“That’s not the agenda item for today’s discussion,” he said. “The only agenda item today is to appointment a search committee for an interim president.”

Gilbert did not return telephone calls from The Packer, but earlier in the day he said the board’s July 24vote on Carlson is a confidential personnel matter and that he wouldn’t comment on it. Of the 14 members on the board, nine voted. Frank Davis of Sweetwater Fresh LLC, Yakima, was the only one who opposed the decision and also voted against the search committee. Janet Leister of the Washington State Agriculture Department abstained from both votes.

A news release from the commission said Carlson’s departure was based on its desire to go in a different direction.

Carlson on July 30 said several major grower-shippers expressed displeasure at the board’s action. For his part, Carlson said he does not want the industry to endure the divisiveness that occurred when he replaced Welcome Sauer five years ago.

“It was awful and divided the whole industry,” Carlson said. “It took two or three years to heal and to get it back together.”

Carlson said he had no indication members of the board were less than satisfied with his performance. When he took the position in 2003, he requested an annual performance evaluation. The last evaluation he received, he said, was for the 2005 year.

“I’m pretty damn sure I haven’t stolen any money,” Carlson said.

Carlson, who owns South 80 Orchard, Wapato, said an ironic twist is that the assessments he pays to commission represent about 90% of his salary.

On the search committee issue, Gilbert did not vote.

Washington Apple Commission seeks interim chief