BAD APPLES

Gov. Jay Inslee carries apples to give to fire victims. His good-will gesture turned out to violate state law

While the Honeycrisp apples Gov. Jay Inslee brought to Malden, Washington, on a recent Thursday continue to sit in the bin he presented the mayor with, others he delivered to Bridgeport and Omak contain maggot larvae.

Those apples were dispersed, and Douglas County officials are now trying to locate them.

Wednesday, Sept. 16, Chelan-Douglas Horticulture Pest and Disease Board Director Will Carpenter called on anyone with information about the contaminated apples to call or email him details on their whereabouts.

“We are desperately seeking the help of all Bridgeport and Douglas County residents or anyone who may have any information to help us locate the apples,” Carpenter wrote in a press release issued this morning. “It is of the utmost importance these apples are safely disposed of immediately.”

The governor brought the apples to Malden on Thursday, Sept. 10, as a gift to residents who suffered losses in the Babb Fire.

After first asking that all media personnel be removed, he personally carried the bin of apples from his black SUV into a public meeting with residents and Mayor Chris Ferrell.

During a speech, he presented the bin to the mayor, saying he and First Lady Trudi Inslee personally picked them from the Governor’s Tree, on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia.

Non-local TV crews and non-local print journalists were more than a block away when he made the presentation.

Two days later, on Saturday, Sept. 12, Gov. Inslee took more of the same Honeycrisp apples to Bridgeport and Omak, for victims of the Pearl Hill Fire. Testing on the apples conducted earlier this week showed them to be infested with apple maggot larvae, Douglas County officials said.

The transportation of apples from an apple maggot quarantine area into non-quarantine areas of Eastern Washington is illegal under state law.

Illegally transporting apples from a maggot quarantine zone into a non-quarantine zone is a misdemeanor for the first offense and a gross misdemeanor for each subsequent offense, under Revised Code of Washington 17.24.101.

If found guilty of a misdemeanor for transporting the apples to Malden, the governor could face a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to RCW 9A.20.021. The penalty, if found guilty, for each of the subsequent gross misdemeanors is up to 364 days in jail and fines of up to $5,000.

The Governor’s Mansion is in Thurston County, which is a quarantined county. Douglas and Whitman counties are not, and neither is most of Okanogan County, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

While the governor told Malden residents the apples were picked at the Governor’s Mansion, he tweeted on Facebook that they were picked at his home on Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge Island is in Kitsap County, which is also under an apple maggot quarantine. It’s also cause for concern as the maggots can destroy apple crops; the Brewster-Bridgeport area is renowned for its apples, which are sold oversees for several dollars per apple.

Carpenter said Eastern Washington agriculture officials are worried that the apple maggots could spread to area crops and have “serious implications for the region.”

As of Wednesday, Sept. 16, the apples brought to Malden remained in the bin at the location he presented them to Mayor Ferrell.

A call to the Whitman County WSU Extension Office requesting information on the governor-apple maggot issue were directed to Stephen Van Vleet, whose staff said he was out of the office until Thursday.