CARTA executive director resigns following arrest in downtown Charleston

CARTA executive director resigns following arrest in downtown Charleston

Officials with the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority say Christine Wilkinson has resigned from her position as the executive director of CARTA.

Wilkinson's resignation follows on her arrest by Charleston police Tuesday night.  CARTA accepted Wilkinson's resignation during an executive session Friday afternoon. Officials say Jeff Burns will serve as the interim executive director until a permanent replacement is found.

CARTA released the following statement Friday afternoon:

Effective immediately, the CARTA Board of Directors has accepted Christine Wilkinson's resignation from her role as executive director.
The board thanks Ms. Wilkinson, a loyal public servant for more than two decades, for her service and the numerous advances she made for public transportation in the region during her leadership tenure. Her achievements include overseeing record ridership numbers, the addition of hybrid buses to the CARTA fleet, the rollout of new services and technologies, and preparations for the forthcoming world-class intermodal transportation facility in North Charleston.

We wish Ms. Wilkinson well in her future endeavors.
 
The board will now embark on a broad search for a qualified replacement to lead the Lowcountry's regional transportation system. In the meantime, Jeff Burns, the authority's transportation planner and a seasoned transit professional, will serve as interim executive director until a permanent replacement is identified.

According to CARTA, Burns joined the organization in April of 2012 and was formerly with Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester COG as a transportation planner for six years.

"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," said Elliott Summey, CARTA board chairman.

Authorities say Wilkinson, 44, was arrested following a drunken altercation with door staff at a hotel. According to a CPD report, police were called to Grill 225 at Market Street Pavilion Tuesday night.

The door staff told police Wilkinson drove up to the valet stand, but declined service, instead telling a door staff member she was only there to get ice cream. After being told she would need to find a legal parking spot, Wilkinson drove off, but returned to the loading zone about two minutes later.

The report states staff once again asked if Wilkinson would like valet service. This time she allegedly said she was waiting for friends, but gave "a name that did not make any sense. The door staff then called police.

Officers say "a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage" was emanating from Wilkinson, her eyes were blood shot, and her speech was slurred. When asked to get out of her vehicle due to the "possibility of her endangering herself or others," Wilkinson allegedly staggered on the road way.

According to the report, Wilkinson asked police "to let her go because she worked for Mayor Joe Riley and has given 20 years of her life to this city," when told she was being placed under arrest for public disorderly conduct for being grossly intoxicated. She also reportedly told the cop, "You could give me a break if you wanted to."

Wilkinson was arrested and transported to the Charleston County Detention Center.

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