State

Riverbank recall bid fails for lack of signatures

RIVERBANK -- The recall effort against City Council members Dave White and Jesse James White is over.

Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change needed to hand in 2,247 signatures by 5 p.m. today, but the group had collected only 1,800 by Wednesday and is giving up, said organizer Sergio Lopez.

"The people have spoken," said Dave White. "The people are not unhappy. If they were unhappy, they would have signed (the recall petition)."

Jesse James White could not be reached for comment. Dave White is Jesse James White's grandfather.

Lopez said the recall failed in part because of an opposing campaign that confused voters. The anti-recall group, Citizens of Riverbank, mailed fliers and set up two Web sites.

The second group also collected written requests from people who had signed the recall petitions, asking that their signatures be removed. State law says people who sign a recall petition can ask to have their signature removed.

City Clerk Linda Abid-Cummings received 561 such requests from people who signed the recall petition against Dave White, and 558 from people who signed the petition against Jesse James White.

Abid-Cummings said it's unheard of for that many people to ask for their signatures to be removed. Some say the anti-recall signatures were gathered under false pretenses.

Modesto resident Teresa Tovar complained to the City Council in June that her father, a Riverbank resident who speaks limited English, was asked to sign a document to support veterans and prevent new taxes. Her father did not sign. Tovar said she spoke later to people who had read the document closely. The document, she said, was collecting signatures against the recall.

Abid-Cummings said she, too, was worried that the anti-recall documents were misleading. The documents linked the recall effort with taxes -- two issues that aren't related, she said.

"It wasn't plain and clear that it meant, ... that they wanted their signatures removed," Abid-Cummings said.

She asked City Attorney Tom Hallinan to review the anti-recall papers. He determined the documents were legal, Abid-Cummings said.

Voters 'confused'

Lopez said the anti-recall campaign helped doom his group's effort.

"What they ultimately won out with was confusion," he said. "People didn't know which way to go, so they didn't sign anything."

Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change announced its recall campaign in February. The group tried to start shortly afterward but was thwarted when it twice filed incorrect paperwork. It began gathering signatures in late May.

Among other complaints, the recall supporters claimed that Dave White, 70, should be removed from office because he lacks ethics and "has several liens and judgments against him for non-payment to the government."

Dave White denied that Wednesday, saying he owes no money, except for his house payment.

Recall proponents said Jesse James White, 20, should be recalled in part because he's on probation.

White was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2007, according to court records. He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of "wet and reckless" driving. He was sentenced to three years of informal probation and a six-week education program.

Lopez said recall backers were "waving a white flag" on the effort but would continue to serve as a watchdog.

"While we may have failed at the recall attempt, we succeeded in getting people interested in politics and local government," he said.

The Stanislaus County civil grand jury recommended in June that Jesse James White be removed from office because he was not registered to vote when he pulled candidacy papers last fall. Lopez said Wednesday that the recall group will continue to pursue action on the grand jury's recommendation.

With six candidates running for Riverbank's empty mayoral seat, the group will shift its focus to informing voters about that race, said Lopez. Dave White is one of those candidates. He said he'll put up his campaign signs Monday.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378. Follow her on Twitter at @BeeReporter

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