Facing Charges, State Energy Official Resigns

TIMES STAFF WRITER

California Energy Commission Chairman Charles R. Imbrecht resigned this week just a day before being charged by Ventura County prosecutors with drunk driving and marijuana possession.

Imbrecht, who represented Ventura County as a state assemblyman from 1976 to 1982, resigned Tuesday after almost 14 years as Energy Commission chairman and following discussions with the staff of Gov. Pete Wilson, officials in Sacramento said.

"The governor's office came to a mutual agreement with Mr. Imbrecht that it was in his best interest to deal forthright with personal problems he is facing," said Sean Walsh, the governor's press secretary.

"Mr. Imbrecht has a number of personal problems that he needs to address in his life and we concur that his resignation is in the best interest of the state, his family and to Chuck himself," Walsh said.

Ventura County sheriff's deputies arrested Imbrecht, a 47-year-old lawyer, late on the afternoon of Dec. 7 after reporting that they had observing his car weaving on a Ventura street and smelling alcohol on his breath.

They also found a small amount of marijuana, less than an ounce, in his pocket, authorities said.

A blood sample taken at a local hospital showed Imbrecht's blood-alcohol level to be 0.33%, which is four times the legal limit to drive, prosecutors said.

Imbrecht, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, resigned in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Wilson saying he needed to step down because of a variety of private obligations. He had headed the Energy Commission since 1983.

On Wednesday, Imbrecht was formally charged in Ventura County Municipal Court with drunk driving and possession of marijuana.

Imbrecht, who is originally from Ventura, is accused of driving under the influence, driving while having a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher and possessing marijuana in a car. His arraignment was postponed until next week.

Imbrecht is currently on probation for an earlier drunk driving case. In 1995, he pleaded no contest to driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher after being arrested by Grass Valley police, according to Nevada County court records.

Nevada County is located in Northern California northeast of Sacramento, where Imbrecht lives.

Imbrecht was sentenced to three years' probation in that case, two days in jail, and ordered to attend a class on the dangers of drinking and driving, records show. Prosecutors dropped two other charges of driving under the influence and resisting authorities.

Walsh said the governor's office was aware of the 1995 drunk driving case. "We have been concerned with that instance as well as others," he said. Walsh said he was not aware of any other arrests involving Imbrecht.

State officials are looking quickly for a replacement because Imbrecht's resignation was effective immediately, Walsh said.

Established in 1975, the Energy Commission is responsible for the licensing of power plants and the development of renewable energy resources.

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