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Grand Jury Report Recommends Ouster Of Councilman
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Riverbank City Councilmember Jesse James White should be removed from office because he had not yet registered to vote at the time he applied to run as a candidate in the November elections, according to a Stanislaus County civil grand jury report released on Wednesday, July 1.

White had his nomination papers issued July 21 but did not register as a voter until July 25, which constituted a violation of the state elections code, according to the investigation.

As a result, the grand jury recommended the council "invalidate the election" and remove White from his post.

City Manager Rich Holmer and City Clerk Linda Abid-Cummings, however, doubt whether the city has the authority to invalidate an election and will hire an attorney specializing in election law as to whether this is possible.

A grand jury report is a simply a recommendation and has no force in law. Riverbank and its officials have 90 days to respond in writing to the report.

Jesse James White has been a controversial figure on the council since he first declared candidacy as a 19-year-old college student with no previous political experience, but supported by his grandfather Dave White, who has sat on the council off and on for 20 years, and is a current council member.

Running among five candidates for two council seats, Jesses James White won 24.6 percent of the vote and took second place after former Mayor David I. White, who is not related to either Jesse James White or Dave White but was also on the November ballot.

Both Jesse James White and Dave White are the targets of a recall movement by Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change, which sought a grand jury inquiry.

The jury report said it received complaints against the City Manager Rich Holmer, former mayor Chris Crifasi and the two city council members. It found the city manager became aware in December 2008, just a month after the election, of Mayor Chris Crifasi's intention to resign and chose not to disclose this information to the citizens. Holmer has said he was asked to wait a while and saw no illegality or harm in this.

The report also is critical of the City Clerk for not validating the accuracy of information on election documents submitted to her office although the form calls for a signature of verification.

The report finds Riverbank has a strong manager and weak mayor form of government with information flowing up to the city manager but not so much downward.

One city employee was quoted as saying he or she was not expected to think but to do what he or she was told.

The city manager needs to more visible in his leadership role and council should develop a written set of policies and procedures for each department, the report adds in making additional recommendations.