Former Simi Valley Councilwoman Sandi Webb has launched a campaign to recall state Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, saying his handling of disputed insurance claims has made him unfit for office.
"He has misused his office for personal gain," Webb said. "Money has disappeared down so many different holes, and none of it is going to the victims."
Webb and fellow activists initiated their drive this week, gathering signatures from Simi Valley and Northridge residents whose homes were damaged in the 1994 earthquake.
They will need nearly 1 million signatures to qualify a recall measure for the state ballot. Webb said she has made contacts across the state in her position as California secretary for the Libertarian Party and hopes to have the signatures by late fall.
She said she intends to finance what is usually a multimillion-dollar effort through grass-roots fund-raising and by using volunteers instead of paid workers to gather signatures. In addition, she plans to use the Internet to distribute petitions, helping to keep costs down, she said.
On Thursday, Webb called Quackenbush corrupt and accused him of diverting millions of dollars to handpicked charities.
Quackenbush let insurance companies donate $12.8 million to foundations controlled by his political associates rather than pay fines of as much as $3 billion for mishandling claims from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, according to documents obtained by The Times.
The Legislature, state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and the state Fair Political Practices Commission are investigating Quackenbush's actions. Three San Fernando Valley attorneys recently filed a class-action suit against Quackenbush, the Insurance Department and Farmers Insurance Group, alleging fraud and breach of contract.
And last week, earthquake victims, consumer advocates and lawyers called for Quackenbush's resignation. If he doesn't quit, the coalition said, it will ask the Legislature to impeach him.
Webb, 51, a retired building designer, said she got involved because Simi Valley was one of the areas hardest hit in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The city incurred an estimated $400 million in damage, as mobile homes toppled from foundations, the second floor of the police station crumbled and chimneys tumbled to the ground.
As many as 4,000 residents were displaced by the earthquake. Webb said that her home sustained minor damage and that several of her former constituents' homes collapsed from the shaking. Quackenbush did not return calls seeking comment about the recall campaign.
Webb was controversial and outspoken while a council member from 1990 to 1998. She once gestured obscenely at Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) after a disagreement over an assault-weapons ban, apologizing a few days later, and she has admitted illegally carrying a gun.
Webb and her coalition will need to gather 964,324 signatures from registered voters, said the secretary of state's office. If enough are verified, the governor must call a special election 60 to 80 days after verification.
Copies of the petition appear at http://www.peoplesveto.org.