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Waxhaw mayor pleads guilty to DWI charge

MONROE Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of driving while impaired after her arrest by a town police officer last year.

The plea deal in Union County District Court for Gardner, 42, included a 30-day suspended sentence, 12 months unsupervised probation, 24 hours of community service and a suspended driver’s license with limited driving privileges.

The mayor’s high-profile arrest prompted two Waxhaw commissioners to say last year that Gardner should resign. She refused to step down.

Officer Kaitlin Robillard arrested Gardner shortly after midnight on June 10. The officer saw a car on N.C. 16 cross the center line several times, according to court records.

“The driver had moderate odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath, had slurred speech and red glassy eyes,” Robillard wrote in her report, records show.

The mayor was taken to Union County Jail before being released after about 80 minutes on a written promise to appear in court.

Gardner declined to comment after the Wednesday hearing.

At a town meeting the day after her arrest, she had briefly apologized to the community, board and staff.

And she released a public statement in June in which she said she would follow the “proper, legal process (in the case). ... The system must be allowed to work for me just as it would for any one of you.”

Gardner had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit, court records showed. But the judge, Philip Howerton Jr., approved a motion by defense attorney Kenneth Swain to suppress the admission of that BAC test.

In an interview, Swain said the test was inadmissible because it was “not administered in the appropriate time frame.”

Despite the flawed test, Swain said, “the mayor still chose to accept responsibility to put the matter to rest. She did what was in the best interest of the public and for her.”

Gardner is in the middle of her second four-year term as leader of the western Union County town. Her term expires in 2015.

In 2008, Gardner was charged with driving under the influence in Lancaster County, S.C., the Observer reported at the time. But Gardner’s North Carolina driving record does not reflect any DWI-related history in South Carolina, Swain said.

Gardner had previously told the media that the South Carolina case was dismissed and the charges expunged.

After her arrest last year, town commissioners voted 5-0 in June to start the process of censuring Gardner, including hiring outside counsel to investigate her actions.

The town hired Trish Holland from Raleigh, who spent several months reviewing documents and interviewing people, and billed the town $15,109, town Manager Mike McLaurin said.

But the board later stopped the censure process in favor of a resolution directed at Gardner, McLaurin said. The board approved a resolution in November that disapproved of Gardner’s actions, including her DWI arrest and buying alcohol with a town credit card.

Buying alcohol with a town credit card violates town policy.

In December, the board unanimously approved a motion requiring Gardner to repay the town nearly $452 for alcohol purchases, purchases without receipts or not having detailed receipts. Alcohol purchases totaled $31.10 of the $452.

Gardner paid the money the next day, McLaurin said.

He said the mayor’s credit card privileges, which the board had asked McLaurin to remove after her June arrest, have not been restored.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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