Amid Riverbank recall clamor, White a no-show

Mayor says if city can't do it, residents should

May 24, 2010 

RIVERBANK -- City officials moved Monday's council meeting to the community center because they expected a big turnout after Councilman Jesse James White's arrest on drug charges.

They were right. The meeting drew more than 150 people, except for one notable absence: White.

But that did not stop more than a dozen residents from demanding that he step down, which drew loud, sustained applause from the audience.

"He has humiliated and embarrassed the citizens of Riverbank," one speaker said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Another speaker asked every audience member who wants White to resign to stand up. More than two-thirds of audience members rose to their feet.

As residents called for his resignation, White apparently was helping his parents celebrate their wedding anniversary. He called City Hall earlier in the day, saying he would be with his parents and miss the meeting, City Manager Rich Holmer said.

White, his parents and other family members could not be reached for comment.

White, 21, was arrested May 14 after authorities said a probation search of his home turned up small amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Monday was the first City Council meeting since his arrest.

City officials say they do not have the legal means to remove White from the council unless he is convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor involving his official duties, such as taking a bribe. But Mayor Virginia Madueño challenged them to look harder. She also said that if the city could not remove White, then residents should support an effort to recall him.

Members of Riverbank Citizens For Fair Change say they are mounting another recall effort against White. The group tried to recall White and his grandfather and fellow council member, Dave White, last year.

Dave White, 71, also missed Monday night's meeting. He is on vacation and out of the state.

Three members of last year's county civil grand jury spoke Monday and called for Jesse James White to resign. A grand jury report last year recommended that he resign from office because he was not registered to vote when he applied to run for his council seat in the November 2008 election.

The biggest applause of the night came when one speaker called for Dave White to resign. The Whites have been controversial in Riverbank politics.

The Whites repeatedly have blocked a sewer rate increase that would raise monthly bills by about $6 over three years and verbally sparred with other council members and city staff.

Some residents who spoke Monday said Jesse James White has embarrassed the community with his claims that his arrest was politically motivated and that the city manager, police chief and sheriff were out to get him. (Riverbank contracts with the Sheriff's Department for police services.)

Madueño drew loud applause when she denied White's accusations and said, "I support our law enforcement 110 percent."

White was placed on three years' probation June 4, 2007, after entering a no contest plea to "wet and reckless" driving. He had been charged with misdemeanor driving while under the influence of alcohol, misdemeanor possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and having a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent while under the age of 21.

The terms of White's probation include that he, his vehicle and his home are subject to searches for alcohol and controlled substances.

But he has said he had never been searched until his May 14 arrest. He was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor possession of marijuana, suspicion of felony possession of cocaine and suspicion of violating his probation.

Sheriff Adam Christianson has said low-level probationers such as White typically aren't searched unless they come to the attention of law enforcement.

Authorities have said they had a reason to look at White after his 19-year-old brother was arrested Jan. 25 on drug charges. The brother gave deputies information that led them to take a closer look at White and conduct a probation search, the sheriff has said.

White has posted bail. The district attorney's office received the case against White on Friday, said Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley.

White also is one of six Republicans on the June 8 ballot seeking the party's nomination in the 25th Assembly District, which spans Modesto to Ma-dera. The chairman of the Republican Party of Stanislaus County has called for White to drop out of the race.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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