RIVERBANK — Councilman Danny Fielder has resigned from the City Council, the latest upheaval for a council marked by bickering, the arrest of one member and an attempted recall.
City officials said he sent them a statement Thursday saying he was stepping down immediately. Fielder did not give a reason in the statement. He was appointed to the council 17 months ago to fill a vacancy.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I must inform you that I will no longer be able to serve with you on the dais as a member of the Riverbank City Council," he said in his statement. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the council and I wish that circumstances were different so that I could retain my seat."
But in a phone interview, Fielder said he would be moving from Riverbank because of "some exciting changes" in his personal life. He declined to elaborate.
Mayor Virginia Madueño and City Manager Rich Holmer said the news came as a surprise. Both praised Fielder.
"Danny is a straight shooter," Madueño said. "You know where you stand with Danny. He has been a voice of reason on the council."
Fielder's departure leaves the City Council effectively with three members in the near term.
Councilman Dave White, 71, has not been at meetings since he was hospitalized June 10. He was transferred to a Modesto rehabilitation center this week and is expected to be there for about a month.
Holmer said the council will meet Monday to talk about how to replace Fielder. He said the council has 30 days to appoint someone. The council's other option is to hold a special election.
Vote must be after Nov. 2
But, he said, based on state law the earliest such an election could be held would be at least a week after the Nov. 2 statewide election.
Fielder's resignation is the latest disruption for the city's leadership.
Riverbank was without a mayor for much of 2009 after Mayor Chris Crifasi and then his appointed successor, David I. White, resigned to take jobs outside of the area.
Councilman Jesse James White, who is Dave White's grandson, was arrested in May on drug charges and has been ordered to stand trial. A group called Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change is mounting its second attempt to recall him.
Jesse James and Dave White are not related to David I. White.
Jesse James White, 21, has said he is innocent and has rebuffed requests that he resign.
Holmer said it will take three council votes to pick a replacement for Fielder. That may be difficult. The council often is divided, with the Whites forming one voting bloc and Madueño, Fielder and Councilwoman Sandy Benitez another.
Some meetings have been punctuated by bickering and bad blood among council members and between the council and audience. At one point, Madueño considered bringing in a facilitator to help council members get along.
But there will be new faces on the council after the Nov. 2 election.
Benitez, 72, said she will not seek another term. One of Dave White's daughters-in-law said he will not seek another term. The two have been fixtures on the council, with more than three decades of service between them.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.