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Originally published May 7, 2009 at 12:03 PM | Page modified May 7, 2009 at 1:04 PM

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Seattle official who led snow response is reassigned

Paul Jackson Jr. has asked to leave his post as Seattle's street maintenance director in the wake of the city's poor response to the snowstorms that paralyzed the city last December.

Seattle Times consumer affairs reporter

Paul Jackson Jr. has asked to leave his post as Seattle's street maintenance director in the wake of the city's poor response to the snowstorms that paralyzed the city last December.

Jackson asked Grace Crunican, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, to be reassigned because he felt he had become a distraction.

Jackson will be working in the city's traffic management division. His duties at this point are loosely defined, and no decision has been made on his $108,000-a-year salary, Crunican said.

Seattle officials said this morning that the city is hiring two consultants to look at the transportation department's overall operations and its emergency preparedness.

"We want to improve what we think is an unhappy and divisive work environment," Mayor Greg Nickels said during a brief appearance at today's news conference. He noted there had been problems in the street maintenance division "for some time."

Jackson's reassignment, which he requested on Tuesday, comes a week after a city council report raised questions about the department's "overall level of emergency preparedness" and the internal review it conducted after its poor performance in clearing city streets during the series of December snow storms.

The council's review was made in response to a Seattle Times story detailing problems with the department's performance during the storms. It also detailed questionable calls by Jackson that resulted in a disjointed response to the storms.

In its review, the council found that the transportation department had not assembled an emergency response team until 11 days into the storm.

The report found that Jackson called the shots on his own despite the absence of coherent real-time information, which made it difficult for him and other top managers to get a "big picture" view of events in the city.

The report also questioned the after-action review, which was conducted by senior department staff in three to four weeks and presented to the council in February.

Charles Bookman, currently the head of the department's traffic division, will serve as interim head of street maintenance while a national search is conducted for a replacement, the city announced.

Jackson had no experience directing a major snow response when Decembers storms hit. He was promoted into his job in June because he was "a strong manager," Crunican said.

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His promotion followed a $500,000 study of the department by an outside law firm hired to review discrimination complaints and other workplace issues. According to the report, a summary of which was released today, employees described Jackson as "unsafe, dictatorial, vindictive, unwilling to listen... even by credible, well-respected witnesses."

The city said it released the summary because The Times and KING-TV had requested the full 8,000-page report several weeks ago. That information has not yet been made available.

Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508; skelleher@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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