John Bryson quits post as Commerce Secretary

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson attends a session organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Mumbai, March 29, 2012. PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama and John Bryson at the May 31, 2011 announcement naming the former utility executive to be Commerce Secretary.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

UPDATED 12:11 p.m. ET

(CBS News) Commerce Secretary John Bryson resigned his post Wednesday, less than two weeks after his involvement in three traffic accidents in southern California that he said stemmed from a seizure.

In a June 20 letter to President Obama, Bryson said his seizure could be a distraction from his performance as a member of the cabinet.

"I have concluded that the seizure I suffered on June 9th 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," he wrote in the letter, released Thursday.

The department announced June 11 that Bryson would take a medical leave of absence in the wake of news that he suffered a seizure and hit two different cars in three different incidents that took place within minutes of each other while driving his personal vehicle near Los Angeles.

Bryson hit a car stopped for a train and hit it again as he was driving away after talking to the driver about the first accident. He then hit a second car in a nearby town shortly thereafter. He was found unconscious in his car and cited with felony hit-and run, though he was not charged. An investigation is ongoing.

In a written statement, Mr. Obama called Bryson "an effective and distinguished leader throughout his career in both the public and private sectors."

Dr. Rebecca Blank would continue to serve as acting Commerce Secretary, a post she took when Bryson announced his medical leave.

Mr. Obama said Bryson, who had been the head of Edison International for nearly two decades, would continue to serve on the president's export council.

In a letter to department staff, Bryson told department staff he feels "privileged to have been part of the progress we have made together for our businesses and workers as they 'build it here and sell it everywhere.' "

The White House said Mr. Obama would meet with Bryson in the Oval Office for a photo opportunity later Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Bryson was in the area to give a June 7 graduation speech at a private high school his daughters had earlier attended.

The newspaper reported that some students and parents at the school noticed that the usually polished public speaker made mistakes and had lapses during his remarks.

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