With a potentially explosive report on federal fisheries law enforcement abuses on his desk, Commerce Secretary John Bryson has resigned under a legal and medical cloud emanating from a series of June 9 traffic collisions that occurred as he drove alone in suburban Los Angeles.
Bryson, 68, has described the cause of the collisions to a "seizure," but the toxicology report on his blood has not been released.
After the collisions which caused minor damage to his and two other autos, police said Bryson faced possible hit-and-run charges. He was found unconscious behind the wheel of his Lexus.
His press office has said he had been undergoing tests but declined to say where. Bryson told President Obama of his decision and memorialized the conversation in writing on Wednesday.
He leaves office with a lengthy set of case studies into NOAA law enforcement abuses on his desk — abuses carried out at the expense of Gloucester and other New England fishermen.
A previous report, also produced by Special Judicial Master Charles B. Swartwood III, was heavily redacted by the previous Commerce Secretary before it was released in May 2011. It came with a secretarial apology to 11 fishing industry business owners and more than $600,000 in reparations.
The Times was told by Bryson's office last month that the second Swartwood report was undergoing review. No announcement of its release was made. Swartwood has completed work on more than 60 new cases.
It was Bryson's predecessor, Gary Locke, now the ambassador to China, who commissioned Swartwood to conduct detailed case studies of more than 30 complaints by fishermen and shoreside businesses against NOAA law enforcers and litigators.
The scandal has been a continuing embarrassment for the administration. NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco declined to fire or sanction any of the key figures who were cited by the Inspector General for Commerce and Swartwood.
The protection of the law enforcement leadership has become the rare issue on which both Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, seem to agree. Both have condemned the way Lubchenco has responded to the accumulation of evidence that the law enforcement department had abused its authority.
Bryson's letter to the president said, "as a consequence of a recent seizure and medical leave of absence, I advised you that I have decided to step down as Secretary of Commerce."
He went on to say, that he had "concluded that the seizure I suffered on June 9 could be a distraction from my performance as secretary and that our country would be better served by a change in leadership of the department.
Acting Secretary Roberta Blank has assumed the department reins, and was representing the U.S. at a meeting in Poland when the resignation letter and conversation with the president was held on Wednesday.
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Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.