The official who came under scrutiny over delays in repairing a traffic light at a major intersection says he is leaving to help care for his elderly father.

Share story

The head of the city’s traffic-management division announced his resignation Thursday, saying he is leaving for personal reasons unrelated to problems in the division.

Charles Bookman, who joined Seattle’s transportation department 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 signs, and street markings and 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.

Bookman’s division came under scrutiny this week after a Seattle Times report that managers in his division waited 11 hours to dispatch a crew to repair a broken traffic light at a major West Seattle intersection.

The division eliminated the night shift for electricians in January in an experiment 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.

That left the intersection at 35th Avenue Southwest and Fauntleroy Way Southwest to operate as a four-way stop for 11 hours. By the time a crew was dispatched during morning rush hour on Feb. 8, traffic was already backed up at least a mile.

The manager who made the rule 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. Tensions in the division where Jackson now works have become so bad that 13 electricians submitted a petition to the department’s chief complaining about their workplace, according to employees.

In an email announcing his resignation, Bookman wrote, in part: “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.”

In an interview, Bookman said he plans to continue working, just not for the city.

Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or On Twitter @susankelleher.