Riverbank councilman enters rehab; won't resign

kvaline@modbee.comFebruary 27, 2012 

— Embattled Councilman Jesse James White has entered a treatment program for alcoholism and will not resign his seat on the City Council.

City Attorney Tom Hallinan announced White's plans at Monday night's City Council meeting, about a week after White's latest arrest related to drugs or alcohol.

Hallinan said White can stay on the council, and his time in treatment would be an excused absence for medical reasons. Hallinan learned of White's status after speaking with his attorney before the meeting.

Hallinan said the only way the city could remove White, 23, is if he is convicted of a misdemeanor related to his official duties or any felony.

White was arrested Feb. 20 in Oakdale on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and child endangerment.

Police said White had his 4-year-old son in his Corvette when he crashed into a parked car. Witnesses said White tried to flee and left his son behind. Bystanders tackled and held him until police arrived.

White, who has posted bail, has not been charged. Authorities have said he is scheduled to be arraigned March 21.

Riverbank officials were expecting a large turnout Monday, but only about a dozen residents showed up. The meeting also was the first one for new City Manager Jill Anderson, a former assistant city manager in Seaside.

Despite the small turnout, the meeting was emotional.

"I felt compelled to come down here," Riverbank resident Ross Huseman said. "I take this as a personal affront. I have a brother who in 1968 was killed by a drunk driver."

Councilwoman Dotty Ny-gard said her sister was struck by a drunken driver but survived after being in a coma.

"I do pray that he will do the best for himself and his family," she said about White, "and we can heal as a community and move forward."

The council now is united in wanting White to resign after Councilman Richard O'Brien called for White's resignation, to applause from the audience.

"He is making the first step by going to treatment," O'Brien said. "… I'm going to call for him to resign. He needs to step down."

Mayor Virginia Madueño and Councilwomen Jeanine Tucker and Nygard have asked for White's resignation.

Madueño said there is little the council can do and urged residents to start another recall effort against him, adding that she believed there was enough time to get a recall on the June ballot.

2nd arrest in office

White has survived two recall attempts since his November 2008 election.

The mayor said the community members who have contacted her are outraged by the allegation that White left his son behind after crashing his Corvette.

This is White's second arrest involving drugs or alcohol since May 2010. And White was on probation for misdemeanor "wet and reckless" driving when he was elected to the council in 2008.

White — a former star quarterback at three area high schools — had name recognition on his side when he ran for City Council. His grandfather Dave White, 73, served on the council for nearly two dec-ades. White finished second among five candidates running for two council seats, garnering nearly 25 percent of the vote.

His council term expires in November and he has not said whether he will run for re-election. But he has been a source of controversy since his election:

A July 2009 Stanislaus County civil grand jury report concluded that he was not a registered voter in Riverbank when he took out his papers to run for the office, a violation of election law. The report urged Riverbank to remove White from office, but city officials said then they did not have the authority.

He accused former City Manager Rich Holmer, Police Chief Bill Pooley and Sheriff Adam Christianson of setting him up after he was arrested in May 2010 on drug charges.

Sheriff's deputies said they found small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in White's apartment and car during a probation search.

White ended the case in May 2011 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and agreeing to attend a 20-hour drug and alcohol class. He completed the class in the fall. A longtime friend of White said the drugs found during the search were his.

He did not let his drug arrest stop his political ambitions. White ran for the Republican nomination for the 25th Assembly District. He finished fifth among six candidates in the June 2010 GOP primary.

Madueño, Nygard and Tucker voted last year to seek court action to have White booted based on the findings of the grand jury report. O'Brien voted against the action, saying it would be a waste of taxpayer money.

The City Council abandoned its efforts to remove White this month after spending more than $53,000 in legal costs.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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