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Heads To Rehab - White Absent From Council
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Embattled Riverbank City Councilmember Jesse James White failed to appear at the Feb. 27 council meeting after his arrest in Oakdale a week before on charges of felony driving under the influence and child endangerment and renewed calls for his resignation from the council.

City Attorney Tom Hallinan Jr. told the council he had been in touch with White's attorney and learned White had entered a medical treatment program for treatment of alcohol abuse but did not plan to resign from the council at this time.

"You can't do much," Hallinan added. "He can't be forced to resign unless he is convicted of a felony, pleads guilty to it or commits some malfeasance involving his office."

Mayor Virginia Madueno said councilmembers and city staff had received many calls from residents calling for White's resignation but the council was restricted by state laws on what it could do.

"Our hands are tied," she said. "The compelling argument for the public is not that he was driving drunk but that he left his child behind (when he ran away). People feel if he can do that, he is not a suitable person to represent the community."

Madueno added she was glad Councilmember Richard O'Brien had joined Councilmembers Dotty Nygard, Jeanine Tucker and herself in a call for White's resignation. O'Brien previously had refused to back lawsuits against White as a waste of taxpayers' money and said resignation was up to White's conscience.

"While our hands are tied by statutes, you the residents can remove him from office," Madueno said. "I don't think he will step down. But I believe there is still time to put an initiative on the June ballot."

Responding to questions from Madueno, Hallinan said if White was under medical treatment he could fail to attend council indefinitely and report it as an excused absence. He could even continue to draw a council member's pay of $300 a month. That could go on until the November election when White's term expires and even to the election canvassing in December.

In the Feb. 20 traffic accident in Oakdale when White's Corvette hit a parked car along F Street near Mann Avenue, he was arrested on charges of felony driving under the influence and child endangerment after trying to flee the scene on foot.

Officers called to the 1 a.m. accident reported White smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred and he could not stand on his own. They also said his 4-year-old son, who was strapped into a child booster seat in the front passenger seat, sustained facial cuts and a bleeding nose from deployment of the air bag. White, according to witnesses, checked on the child briefly after the crash but left him in the car seat and attempted to flee the scene when told a call had been made to 9-1-1.

White posted bail by afternoon of that same day and is free until a court appearance on March 21.

This is far from his first brush with the law. When elected to council in 2008 at the age of 19, he was on probation for what the court called "wet and reckless driving." Two years later he was arrested on drug possession charges.

Over the years he has faced criticism for many of his decisions on the council, two recall attempts led by Nygard and Madueno, two lawsuits seeking to oust him from council on grounds he was not a registered city voter when he ran for office and several public calls for his resignation as being an embarrassment to the city.

White previously has argued he was elected to office by the people, not by the council, and said he will only step down when the voters reject him. His four-year term of office will expire this November.

Since the traffic accident, City Hall has received many telephone calls asking why White is still on the council.

"I received more than my fair share," said Madueno, "probably because someone posted a blog urging citizens to contact a council member and express their views."

Interim City Manager Pam Carder, who handed over control to the newly appointed city manager Jill Anderson on Feb. 27, said she too received a dozen or more calls and none were in White's defense. She also had received many calls from television stations including Channels 3, 10. 13 and 19, and inquiries from the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times.

A few Sacramento area television stations sent crews and set up their cameras in the council chambers on Monday night. But the expected packed crowd of residents did not materialize. There was plenty of seating available and only three constituents of the estimated dozen in attendance, Ross Husman, Ramon Bermudes and Daryl Daniel, made public comment.

Husman noted he took drunken driving as a personal affront because his brother was killed by a drunken driver. White, he said, should do the right thing and resign, for the sake of his son, himself and the community.