RIVERBANK — Jesse James White's failure to attend three City Council meetings this month is going to cost the city as much as $35,000.
That's the high end of what the city estimates it will cost to hold a special election in March to fill the vacancy created after Councilman Danny Fielder resigned July 29.
The council could have appointed someone, but could not muster enough members to hold a meeting to discuss that option after White said he would not be available.
The council has effectively been at three members since Fielder resigned, which is the minimum number needed to hold a meeting. Dave White — Jesse James White's grandfather and fellow council member — has been in the hospital and then a rehabilitation center since June 15.
The council still has until Saturday to appoint someone, according to state law, but will not try to meet again before the deadline. By default, the city must hold a special election.
City Manager Rich Holmer said he suspects White missed the two special meetings to discuss how to fill the vacancy and Monday's regular meeting because he did not want to appoint anyone.
"He never came out and said, 'I don't want to appoint someone,' but you can look at his actions," Holmer said.
The Whites often have been on the losing side of 3-2 votes and at odds with Mayor Virginia Madueño, Councilwoman Sandy Benitez and Fielder.
A family member said Wednesday that Jesse James White was in Los Angeles on business and was not expected home until later this week. White, 21, has not returned several phone calls this and last week.
Holmer said the City Council will meet Monday to take up the agenda from this week's canceled meeting, including applying for an $800,000 state grant that is due in Sacramento by Wednesday. The grant would help first-time home buyers and low- income homeowners.
Holmer said City Attorney Tom Hallinan has heard from former Mayor Charles Neal that Jesse James White can attend Monday's meeting.
City officials have said a special election will cost $25,000 to $35,000. They also have said, based on state law, Riverbank doesn't have enough time to schedule the election for Nov. 2, and the next regularly established election date is March 8.
Though White — who was elected in November 2008 — did not show up for this week's meeting, a group trying to recall him did. Dotty Nygard with Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change said group members demonstrated outside City Hall.
She said her group is close to collecting the 2,185 signatures needed to place a recall election on the ballot. She said her group is planning a rally next week that should garner the remaining signatures it needs.
Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change launched the recall attempt after White's arrest in May on drug possession charges. He has been ordered to stand trial.
"Our city is suffering because of this young person," Nygard said. "He has way too many issues to deal with. He's not responsible enough to have this much responsibility on his shoulders."
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.