Charles Quackenbush, a four-term Republican Assemblyman who was elected state insurance
commissioner in 1994, was once viewed as the great statewide hope of the
As commissioner, he was the lone constitutional officer
among a group of statewide Democrats, and he was being
groomed by the political pros for higher office. Handsome,
fit and telegenic, a former helicopter pilot and Army
captain, Quackenbush seemed like a natural contender.
But in 2000, he ran into a political storm. News reports delved
into his activities as commissioner, revealed in part
by a whistleblower from within the Department of Insurance.
According to testimony before a Democrat-controlled Legislature, Quackenbush allowed insurance
industry fees, intended for nonprofit and educational
purposes, to be used instead for his own political
benefit, which included statewide television commercials.
A number of funds had been set up to assist public
education and research, but which wound up being exploited
and mishandled by some within the department or with
close ties to the department.
It was also alleged that following the devastating
Northridge earthquake in 1994, Quackenbush allowed insurers to compensate their
policyholders at a lower than acceptable levels.
Faced with impeachment and several expanding investigations,
Quackenbush resigned his office on July 10, 2000. Two years later, in 2002, prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence
to charge him with wrongdoing.
After his resignation, Quackenbush left California
– he had lived in Rio Linda north of Sacramento – and moved to Hawaii. He also lived briefly in Ohio.
In 2005, he moved to Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort
Myers and Bonita Springs, and became a sheriff’s deputy – first as a reserve deputy, then as a full-time law enforcement officer. Quackenbush also planned
to become a helicopter pilot for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
The 55-year-old Quackenbush had largely avoided the public eye
until 2008, when he shot and critically wounded a suspect in
a domestic disturbance who allegedly was resisting
arrest. Quackenbush was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Also in 2008, some $6.5 million in disputed funds that had been collected
during the Quackenbush era was ordered used for its
original purpose - investigating seismic risks.
The money from the fund, California Research and Assistance
Fund, a nonprofit that was being dissolved in the wake
of Quackenbush’s departure, was ordered dispensed by the state Seismic
Safety Commission in the form of grants and contracts.