WAXHAW – After more than six months of public scrutiny following her June 10 arrest, Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner isn’t ready to leave her mistakes in the past.
Gardner was arrested on charges of driving while impaired and driving left of center after a blood test showed that she had a blood alcohol level of .18. The legal limit to drive is .08. This was the second time she was accused of driving drunk.
Test results from the most recent incident were later thrown out due to a discrepancy with the results, Gardner said after her Wednesday, Jan. 15, court appearance.
The mayor pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while impaired and was given a 30-day suspended sentence, 12 months unsupervised probation, 24 hours of
community service and a suspended
driver’s license with limited driving privileges.
“What I did was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that. It was irresponsible,” Gardner said following her sentencing.
But moving on and leaving her mistakes and struggles behind her isn’t what this 20-year Waxhaw resident has planned for the future. Many people have reached out to Gardner since she was arrested in June in reference to her struggles with alcohol, but according to Gardner it’s not the alcohol that has afflicted her life for the past three years – it’s the alcohol that she leaned on while struggling with depression.
“What I have found in that mental health condition is that alcohol sometimes has been like a friend and the thing about depression is, it’s isolating,” she said. “You feel alone even when you are surrounded by the people who love you.”
Gardner hopes to begin a conversation about depression and other mental conditions that are often ignored because of a “stigma” placed around the topic, she added. She hopes her struggles will go on to help others in the community.
The Waxhaw Board of Commissioners adopted the Resolution of Disapproval and Non-Support of Mayor Daune Gardner last year after finding discrepancies in expense reports filed by the mayor, including the cost of alcohol, commissioners said.
Around the time of Gardner’s arrest, commissioners were told of her failure to provide receipts for charges on the town’s credit card in a timely manner. After an investigation resulted in the lack of many receipts, the board requested Gardner reimburse the town about $450, something she complied with the following day.
According to reports provided by the town, around $115 in purchases were lacking receipts, $304 were lacking itemized receipts and $31 has been documented as being spent on alcohol. Although Gardner reimbursed the town, she says there was never a misuse of taxpayer money.
“Let me make this very clear. I have not, will not and never will misuse taxpayer funds. Not one red cent of taxpayer money was used to buy alcohol,” she said.
Gardner said she would remove the cost of alcohol from the total when submitting expense reports, resulting in her paying for the alcohol purchases and not the town. The only thing she was guilty of in regard to expense reports, she added, was being a little sloppy with the way she presented them and sometimes not submitting the reports within the 14-day required window.
“Is it sloppy, sure. But at the end of the day, that is not an expenditure of taxpayer funds because the expense reports always end up with a net amount owing to me,” Gardner said.
Gardner said she will not resign her position, despite calls from some to do so. Her term ends in 2015, and she has not yet said if she will run for re-election.