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Waxhaw board vote ousts Mayor Daune Gardner from regional planning group

The Waxhaw Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 on Tuesday to remove Mayor Daune Gardner as its representative on the regional planning organization that recommends Charlotte-area road needs to the state.

The vote was in response to Gardner being fined $250 by the N.C. State Ethics Commission for filing a required form late as a member of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

The statement of economic interest form, which details financial and personal interests of certain public officials, was initially due in mid-April, with fines possible if it was not turned in by mid-June.

Gardner was among the people fined $250 by the commission last week filing late or not at all, Assistant Director Pam Cashwell said. The notices of fines are being sent out this week.

Before the vote, Gardner said the board lacked the authority to remove her as a member of the planning group. She said a town’s mayor – or someone the mayor designates – is automatically a member of the organization.

Voting to remove Gardner were commissioners Paul Fitzgerald, John Hunt, Steve Maher and Mayor Pro Tem Michael Stewart.

Commissioner James Warner voted against the measure, saying the mayor has done an adequate job and that her failure to submit the form on time was a “minor item.”

“It’s silly,” Warner said of the special meeting. “It’s a distraction.”

Stewart called Tuesday’s special meeting to take possible action over what the meeting notice said was Gardner’s “neglect of duties and role as an elected official.”

Hours before the meeting, Gardner said she had no idea why the meeting was called, but added, “I suspect this is some posturing.”

During the meeting, Gardner told Stewart they could have discussed the issue over the phone and avoided the need for a public meeting.

Gardner was not required to file the form in her role as mayor, according to Cashwell. Rather, Gardner had to file it as a member of the planning group.

Gardner said she turned in the form last week stating there was no change in the areas the form covered. “I’m sure we all have neglected to file something in a timely fashion,” she said.

Members of the planning organization have been required to file the form for two years now.

Because Gardner represents the town on the planning board, Interim Town Manager Greg Mahar said, Waxhaw commissioners felt they still could take up the issue.

This is not the first time the Waxhaw board has focused on the mayor’s activities.

In January, Gardner pleaded guilty to a driving while impaired charge from June 2013. The plea deal 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.

Gardner refused requests by two town commissioners to resign. She is serving her second four-year term, which expires in 2015.

Commissioners began censure proceedings against Gardner last year but later dropped that action. Instead, they approved a resolution in November that disapproved of her actions, including her arrest and buying alcohol with a town credit card. Using a town credit card to buy alcohol violates town policy.

In 2008, Gardner was charged with driving under the influence in Lancaster County, S.C., the Observer reported at the time. Gardner has told reporters that the South Carolina case was dismissed and the charge expunged. Correspondent Jane Duckwall contributed

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