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Fireworks aplenty as White appears at Riverbank Council meeting

RIVERBANK -- Councilman Jesse James White made his first appearance Monday night at a city meeting since his May 14 arrest on drug charges.

And it started with a bang, with White's grandfather and fellow council member, Dave White, defending his grandson as he challenged Mayor Virginia Madueño and one of the leaders of a group trying to recall his grandson.

After a sometimes heated exchange, Madueño gaveled down Dave White and called for a five-minute break.

The council met Monday night for a budget workshop. The workshop resumed after the break without more outbursts, but the fireworks aren't over.

Madueño wants the council to take action against Jesse James White at its meeting next week.

That action could include censuring White, although Madueño has called for him to step down and wanted everyone to know she did not approve of White's attending Monday's budget workshop.

She said before the five-minute break that she did not want anyone to think, "I condone or agree with his participating in this study session."

Jesse James White did not defend himself at the meeting.

But Dave White accused Madueño of already putting his grandson on trial at the May 24 council meeting, where more than 150 people packed the community center. About two dozen speakers called for Jesse James White to step down, receiving loud applause.

Jesse James White, 21, missed that meeting and the budget workshop held before it because he said he was helping his parents celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Dave White told one of the leaders of Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change, which is trying to recall Jesse James White, that his grandson is entitled to his rights.

"You are innocent until proven guilty in America," Dave White said. "... He is innocent today. He has never been proved guilty of anything, and there have been no charges filed."

Jesse James White was arrested May 14 after a probation search at his home turned up small amounts of marijuana and cocaine, according to authorities.

He was placed on three years' informal misdemeanor probation June 4, 2007, after pleading no contest to "wet and reckless" driving.

The district attorney's office has said it would wait until after today's primary election before deciding whether to file charges to avoid any suggestion that prosecutors would attempt to influence voters.

Jesse James White is one of six Republican candidates in today's primary for the 25th Assembly District, which stretches from Modesto to Ma-dera.

The Whites have been lightning rods on the council, clashing with city officials and questioning city spending.

Jesse James White's latest run-in with City Hall was last week over his water and sewer bill. The city had never billed Jesse James White since he moved into his downtown apartment in December 2008.

The city turned off the water meter outside the apartment in November 2008 when the previous tenant moved out. But someone turned the meter back on without establishing an account with the city.

Jesse James White's mother has said the water was on when she helped her son move. City Manager Rich Holmer said White paid more than $600 for water and sewer and established an account last week.

The city caught the mistake when a sheriff's deputy tried to get a copy of White's water and sewer bill. The district attorney's office had requested documentation to show that White lives in the apartment where officers conducted the May 14 probation search.

While White has declined to comment, these remarks are posted on his Web site for his Assembly campaign:

"Can you believe the city of Riverbank takes 18 months to catch accounting, service and billing mistakes! This is the very government waste and incompetence in city administration that Jesse James has been speaking out against for 18 months."

White's lease states he is responsible for utilities, and White's landlord has said he tells tenants to contact utility providers for services, including the city for water.

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

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