Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner, who faces an August court date on a driving while impaired charge, used her town credit card to buy alcohol three times since September, town records show.
Buying alcohol with the credit card violates town policy. Waxhaw commissioners voted to suspend her credit card privileges this month as officials look into her spending and related issues.
Commissioner Joyce Blythe on Tuesday criticized Gardner for using taxpayer money to purchase alcohol, saying elected leaders need to uphold certain standards. “There are lines you don’t cross as a town official, and this is one of them,” she said.
Blythe had previously called on Gardner to resign.
After the meeting, Commissioner Michael Stewart told the Observer he thought Gardner should resign, but he would not ask her to step down. “If someone has an ounce of respect for themselves or the office (they) would step down,” he said.
At their Tuesday night meeting, commissioners voted 5-0 to begin the process of censuring Gardner, a step that would involve hiring outside counsel to investigate her actions, said Town Manager Michael McLaurin.
The counselor would report back to the board, which would then hold a public hearing before deciding whether to vote on a nonbinding censure resolution for violating the town’s code of ethics.
McLaurin said town staff would begin the process on Wednesday.
“Censure is basically a slap on the wrist,” Blythe said, “but it is an embarrassment.”
In a statement on her Facebook page, Gardner said she doesn’t plan to step down as mayor and encouraged people to “remember that anyone is innocent until proven otherwise.”
“I want to make it clear that I do not intend to leave the position that the citizens of Waxhaw elected me to fulfill,” she wrote. “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.”
Gardner spent $31 on wine and beer with the town’s credit card, according to itemized receipts provided to the Observer under a public records request. This included $13 for wine in Chapel Hill, $12 for wine in Raleigh and $6 for Miller Lite from a Washington, D.C., hotel minibar, records show.
Other receipts submitted by Gardner since late 2011 were not itemized, and some receipts were missing, both of which also violate the town’s travel policy requiring a detailed receipt of meals.
Gardner, 41, was arrested by a Waxhaw police officer early on June 10 after the officer noticed a car on N.C. 16 cross the center line several times, Union County court records show. Gardner had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit, records show.
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