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February 23, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Head of traffic management at Seattle transportation department resigns

The man in charge of traffic management for Seattle announced his resignation Thursday, citing personal reasons.

Charles Bookman, who joined Seattle’s Department of Transportation in 2002, said he is leaving his post  March 30 to oversee the care of his ailing 97-year-old father, who lives in New York City.

Bookman’s division is responsible for the city’s signs and street markings, and for its traffic lights.

 “It’s been in the works for months,” said Bookman, 64, who will remain in Seattle but travel monthly to see his father. He said he does not plan to retire, but does not expect to work with the city in the future.

In an e-mail announcing his resignation, he wrote:  “I am proud to have served three successive administrations. Together we have steadily kept on course, building the transportation system we need out of the one we have. SDOT’s Traffic Management Division is positioned to do great things in the future. We are building innovative new facilities, and now have the tools, knowledge and systems to operate them at optimal efficiency.”

 Bookman’s division came under scrutiny this week, following reports that managers in his division took 11 hours to dispatch a crew to repair a broken traffic light at a major intersection in West Seattle.

“It’s unfortunate timing,” he said Thursday, noting that his decision was unrelated to that incident or the complaints the city’s signal electricians have made against one of his subordinates.

Management decisions and a staffing experiment begun last month left the intersection at 35th Avenue Southwest and Fauntleroy Way Southwest to operate as a four-way stop on Feb. 8 until a crew was dispatched at rush hour, when traffic was already tied up.

The division eliminated the night shift in January to save money, and replaced it with an on-call roster that had rules about who could volunteer for overtime. The electricians’ union contract requires everybody to be available for overtime. But the manager supervising the electricians instituted a rule in August that only electricians living within 30 minutes of the workplace could volunteer for overtime, according to the employee.

The manager was Paul Jackson Jr., a former division chief who led the city’s botched response to the December 2008 snowstorms and who figured prominently in a yearlong human-resources investigation into the department’s street-maintenance division.

Comments | More in General news, Government | Topics: bookman, jackson, sdot

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