Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco donated his $40,000 bonus to Project Share, which helps low-income City Light customers with their bills, after the award provoked criticism about untimely spending.

Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco donated his $40,000 bonus to charity earlier this month after the award provoked criticism about untimely spending.

Carrasco said he made the tax-deductible donation on July 16 to Project Share, which helps low-income City Light customers with their bills, because “it was the right thing to do.”

“I hadn’t wanted this whole thing to be publicized. I’m not doing it for acknowledgment in any way,” said Carrasco, who makes $224,000 a year. “My wife and I decided to do this because it was the right thing to do because of the difficult economy and there are people in need.”

A Seattle Times story on July 8 prompted criticism of Mayor Greg Nickels after he approved the 18 percent bonus, which was part of a contract Carrasco signed in 2004.

Ten percent of it was a retention bonus, for Carrasco remaining at City Light four years; the remaining 8 percent was the maximum bonus for yearly performance.

The donation came to light after City Light employees confronted Carrasco last Friday about the bonus. A senior manager told employees about the donation, and the news leaked out.

Carrasco said he was “surprised” the bonus drew such attention.

“I just assumed because it was a contract, generally people would understand that,” Carrasco said. “But the timing and amount of attention, it was unexpected but understandable.”

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com