VENTURA — Longtime Ventura County political figure Charles R. Imbrecht agreed to resign this week as chairman of the California Energy Commission just a day before being formally 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 after a series of discussions with the staff of Gov. Pete Wilson, officials in Sacramento said.
Ventura County sheriff's deputies arrested Imbrecht, a 47-year-old lawyer, on a late afternoon last month. They reported observing his 1996 Geo Prizm weaving on Johnson Drive in Ventura 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 alcohol level to be 0.33, four times the legal limit to drive, Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven Phillips said.
Imbrecht could not be reached for comment Thursday, and his Westlake Village attorney did not return a phone call.
Imbrecht resigned in a letter Tuesday to Wilson saying only that he needed to step down because of personal obligations. He had chaired the Energy Commission since 1983.
"It has been a privilege to serve the people of California for the last 20 years," Imbrecht wrote. "However, a variety of private obligations require me to step aside and submit my resignation."
Imbrecht's decision to step down came after a series of discussions with state officials, said Sean Walsh, the governor's press secretary.
"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," Walsh said Thursday.
"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.
On Wednesday, Imbrecht was formally charged before Judge John E. Dobroth 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 to 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 northeast of Sacramento, where Imbrecht lives.
In that case, Imbrecht was sentenced to three years' probation and two days in jail, and he was 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.
State officials want to find a replacement quickly since 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.
"In any position like the Energy Commission, there are a number of qualified candidates out there," Walsh said.