WASHINGTON -- Commerce Secretary John Bryson resigned Thursday less than two weeks after suffering a seizure and multiple car collisions in the Los Angeles area. He said he didn't want his health to be a distraction from his job.
Bryson, 68, a former California utility executive, served as a member of President Obama's economic team and advised the president on energy issues. He made his resignation official in a letter to Obama, saying it was a "consequence of a recent seizure and a medical leave of absence."
"I have 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," Bryson wrote.
Obama met with Bryson in the Oval Office to thank him for his service. He said he had accepted the resignation and that Bryson had provided "invaluable experience and expertise" to his administration.
Bryson's resignation followed a series of collisions. Authorities said Bryson was driving alone in a Lexus near Los Angeles when he struck a vehicle that had stopped for a passing train. He spoke briefly with the three occupants, then hit their car again as he departed.
He then struck a second car in a nearby city, where he was later found unconscious in his car. Commerce officials said Bryson had not suffered a seizure previously and had "limited recall of the event" involved in the crashes.
In a message to Commerce Department employees, Bryson said their efforts to help American businesses "build our economy and create jobs is more important now than ever." Obama is in the midst of an intense re-election race that will largely be determined by the fate of the economy. Bryson said he would keep supporting Obama in a "personal capacity."
Earlier this month, Bryson transferred his functions and duties as secretary to Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank, who is now acting secretary. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama had "a great deal of confidence" in Blank, but he declined to elaborate on any plans to find a permanent successor.
Bryson was cited for felony hit-and-run, although he has not been charged.
Los Angeles County district attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robison said the DA has not been presented any case for review. She said the crashes remained under investigation by San Gabriel police.
Bryson took a Breathalyzer test that didn't detect any alcohol, authorities said. Investigators were awaiting the results from a blood test to determine whether alcohol or drugs were in his system.