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Council Seeks To Oust White
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News that the Riverbank City Council plans to file legal action against Jesse James White to remove him from the council was inadvertently revealed during discussion of legal costs at the April 25 meeting.

This may become clearer on May 9 when Director of Finance Marisela Hernandez must return to council to give information on the number and cost of several lawsuits the council has under way or pending.

It appears council, meeting in closed door session a few weeks ago without White present, voted 3-1 to seek legal action against White on grounds he was not registered as a voter at the time he filed as a candidate for the 2008 council election and therefore his election to office was invalid.

Vice Mayor Richard O'Brien recently has protested the city's rising legal costs, asked at the April 25 meeting that Hernandez produce more details, and said Thursday he is opposed to spending more taxpayer money on legal action against White that is unjustified and will fail.

"I disagree (with the rest of council) because he was voted in by the people. I will not pass judgment on the election or on the two recall attempts that failed. All the council is doing is try to make happy the 2,000 people who signed the recall petition," O'Brien said.

A 2009 civil grand jury recommended White be removed from office for failing to register as a Riverbank voter before he signed up to run for a council seat. But White denies this and city officials said only the state attorney general has the authority to enforce the jury's recommendation.

"I registered to vote. I sent my voter registration card through the mail," White said last week. "It disappeared. It was ripped off. The Post Office may have lost it. Some volunteers had access to that card. There is no proof I did not register.

"I think a lawsuit would be a waste of the people's money. The citizens elected me and twice have chosen not to recall me," he added.

Having failed to follow up the grand jury's recommendation in 2009, the City of Riverbank is now planning to file a legal action that is specifically designed to remove public officials. It will be decided by a Stanislaus County judge based on the grand jury report.

Mayor Virginia Madueno, who has publicly called for White' s resignation, joined Councilmember Dotty Nygard who led the failed recall attempts and new member Jeanine Tucker in the most recent attempt to oust White.

"We as council feel there is still a question in the community over the validity of White's election," Madueno said. "This legal action is not so much for the council as for the community. The question has been looming over our heads for a long time. We hope to find resolution and closure by this action. If White is vindicated, so much the better."

Since his election as the youngest councilmember ever in Riverbank, White has faced a civil grand jury proposal he be removed from office for alleged violation of election law, arrests on unresolved drug possession charges, criticism for missing numerous council meetings, two recall attempts and public calls for his resignation from both residents and fellow council members.

About a year after his disputed election, White was arrested on charges sheriff's deputies found marijuana and cocaine during a probation search of his apartment and vehicle. At the time White was on probation after pleading no contest to a "wet and reckless" driving charge in 2007. White protested he was "framed" by city officials and the Sheriff's Department and noted defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

White is due in court on May 6 for a pre-trial conference on those charges with the trial set for May 16. A conviction would force him off the council but only if he is convicted of a felony. He could still serve with a misdemeanor conviction.

White has upset the council and some citizens by missing several meetings including the first meeting after his arrest when he attended a family celebration and citizens packed the chamber with many calling for his resignation.

Because he failed to appear at three meetings in August 2010 to discuss filling a council vacancy, the council missed deadlines and was forced to hold a special election at a cost of more than $50,000.

The group called Citizens For Fair Change mounted recall efforts against White in 2009 and 2010 but both times failed to gather enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot.