Waxhaw moves forward with censure process

WAXHAW –The Waxhaw Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday, June 25, to move forward on censuring Mayor Daune Gardner and hiring a private attorney to investigate Gardner’s actions.

Gardner was arrested by the Waxhaw Police Department on charges of driving while impaired and driving left of center on June 10.  According to test results, the mayor had a blood alcohol level of .18 at the time.  The legal limit to drive is .08.

“Please remember that anyone is innocent until proven otherwise.  I am and will follow proper, legal process,” Gardner said in an email prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “…I want to make it clear that I do not intend to leave the position that the citizens of Waxhaw elected me to fulfill.  Rest assured that I will continue to perform my duties as your mayor with the same vigor, grace and poise as should be required of any elected official.”

But many commissioners feel otherwise, with some asking her to resign and others saying she should have stepped down on her own after learning of violations to the town’s travel policy.  Violations show Gardner included alcohol purchases in her expense reports – something the town’s policy prohibits of mayors and commissioners.

“The town manager made several members of the board aware, several weeks ago, of issues surrounding the mayor including, but not limited to, her expenses,” Commissioner Mike Stewart said during the meeting.  “… I will not ask her to step down. I believe anyone with an ounce of shame, decency or dignity or respect for themselves or the town or the people they represent would have already done so.”

The board voted during previous meetings to revoke the mayor’s town credit card privileges along with the expense and travel policies, which total $6,500 in possible reimbursement for Gardner.

Waxhaw’s censure process includes many steps – beginning with hiring a third-party, private attorney, which the board has already directed town staff to do.  The attorney will then begin an investigation.

At any time the board feels there is enough information and evidence to move forward with the process, they will call for a public hearing.

During the public hearing, everyone involved will provide their testimonies, evidence and information, and the board will vote following the hearing on a non-binding resolution censure, which would need a three-quarters vote to pass, according to town attorney Chaplin Spencer.

“Please don’t mistake silence for a definitive opinion,” Mayor Pro Tem Erin Kirkpatrick said during the meeting of a lack of comment from town leaders on the issue outside of meetings.  “… Please do not think that any member of this board condones a violation of our oaths, a violation of our policies at any time, and do not think that your town is falling apart because we will not let that happen.”

Gardner was arrested in September 2008 in Lancaster County, S.C., for driving under the influence, but the charges were later expunged from her record, she said.  This is the mayor’s second term in office, which is scheduled to end in 2015.

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