Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels took a lot of heat for giving a $40,000 bonus to the head of the city's electric utility during a recession that has pinched the city's budget severely.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels took a lot of heat for giving a $40,000 bonus to the head of the city’s electric utility during a recession that has pinched the city’s budget severely.

But Seattle City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco quietly gave the full $40,000 to Project Share, the utility’s last-resort fund for helping low-income people pay their electric bill. Carrasco gave the check to the Customer Care Department July 16, Director Kelly Enright confirmed.

That’s an impressive move, considering that the bonus, although contractually required, could certainly have become a bone of contention as City Light negotiated the recession and a $70 milllion drop in wholesale revenues from its hydropower operations.

The cat apparently was let out of the bag at an employee meeting Friday when employees were challenging Carrasco on his bonus. A senior manager then told the employees what happened to the bonus, a City Light spokeswoman confirmed. Apparently, several wrote checks to Project Share themselves.

This morning Carrasco confirmed the payment, saying he and his wife decided to contribute the full bonus amount because of the challenges facing the utility and its customers.

“These are tough times,” Carrasco said. “We felt the right thing to do was to give the full amount to Project Share.” He said they did not intend for the contribution to be publicized.