Christine Wilkinson resigned Friday as director of the regional transportation authority, three days after being arrested outside a Charleston hotel on an alcohol-related disorderly conduct charge.
The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority board unanimously accepted Wilkinson's resignation. She had been with the agency for about 20 years and the director for the past three. As director, she was paid $130,000 a year.
"We wish Ms. Wilkinson well in her future endeavors," the board said in a statement released after a half-hour, closed-door executive session.
In addition to accepting her resignation, the board voted to authorize CARTA Chairman Elliott Summey to negotiate a severance package with Wilkinson.
Until a new director is selected, transportation planner Jeff Burns will be in charge of CARTA day-to-day operations.
"The talented and knowledgeable CARTA staff is well-positioned and prepared to successfully navigate this transition period, and the CARTA board is fully confident in Jeff's ability to lead the agency," Summey said in a prepared statement.
"I'm excited to be able to serve the public in whatever capacity is required," Burns said. "CARTA provides vital services to our community, and my top priority is to ensure that those continue to be delivered with quality and efficiency."
Wilkinson, 44, was charged at 9:55 p.m. Tuesday after an incident outside the Market Pavilion Hotel on East Bay Street. According to the police report:
Wilkinson drove up to the valet stand, and told employees she was there to get some ice cream. When asked if she needed her car parked, she declined. After being asked to move away from the valet area, Wilkinson drove off south on East Bay Street, before returning a few minutes later.
Wilkinson told staff members she was waiting for friends to come out of the bar. Wilkinson began to act irritated, and door staff contacted police.
A bicycle officer approached Wilkinson, who was still in the driver's seat of her car, and smelled a strong odor of alcohol beverage coming from her body and breath.
Wilkinson's eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slurred. The officer asked Wilkinson to get out of her car due to her "grossly intoxicated state" and the "possibility of her endangering herself or others."
When Wilkinson exited her car, she staggered on the roadway.
When police arrested Wilkinson, she asked the officer "to let her go because she worked for Mayor Joe Riley and has given 20 years of her life to this city," the report stated.
Wilkinson also said, "You could give me a break if you wanted to," according to the report.
She posted bail and was released from custody overnight, according to authorities.
When asked why Wilkinson didn't face DUI charges since there were witnesses to her driving away and returning, police said the officer felt the best resolution to the situation was the disorderly conduct charge.
During Wilkinson's tenure as director, CARTA posted gains as it pushed past annual "ridership" of 4 million.
New North Area Shuttle routes were implemented in partnership with Tanger Outlets, Boeing and the city of North Charleston. An aggressive advertising campaign wrapped buses in displays touting fast food, sports and tourist attractions.
Wilkinson, a North Charleston native, became CARTA interim executive director in July 2011, and was named director in December of that year. She succeeded longtime director Howard Chapman upon his retirement.
She served as a transit administrator with the agency since 1997, and was credited with playing a key role in CARTA's procurement of a new bus fleet, the privatization of fixed-route service and obtaining Federal Transit Administration funding. She served as president and vice president of the Transportation Association of South Carolina.
Her resignation comes as CARTA is moving forward with a $14.5 million bus, train and taxi hub in North Charleston that will serve as its new headquarters. CARTA administrative offices are now housed at the Charleston Visitor Center.
When the project is finished, the Amtrak station on Gaynor Avenue will become a transportation hub featuring food, art and a favorable first impression of the area, officials said at a public meeting on the project Monday night.
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