Waxhaw votes to censure Gardner

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 11:40 AM

The Waxhaw Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to censure Mayor Daune Gardner Tuesday.

Robert Parker was the sole speaker during public comments. He said he is a 77-year resident of Waxhaw. He worried for the safety of his grandchildren and other young people who walk, bike or skateboard on town streets.

“You need help. You’ve got a drinking problem, Ms. Gardner,” Parker said. “With all due respect, you need help.”

He went on, saying she should “be tarred and feathered” and “run out of town” for the embarrassment caused to the town.

Gardner recused herself and Mayor Pro Tem Erin Kirkpatrick presided over a vote to censure the mayor and to direct staff to have a third party to look into the issues. Both passed by unanimous vote.

Commissioner Michael Stewart commented, saying that everyone should form their opinions once all facts are available. Several weeks ago, the town manager expressed concerns to the board “including but not limited to” the mayor’s expenses. The board was in the process of deciding what action to take when Gardner was arrested for DWI.

“The issues will all be combined into the censure process,” Stewart said. “Some of those are dereliction of duty, failure to abide by the policies, procedures, codes and laws that she herself signed into action and swore on a Bible to uphold in addition to the laws of the land she has recently broken which we all must follow as responsible citizens of society.”

He did not ask her to step down.

“I believe anyone with an ounce of shame, decency, dignity or respect for themselves, the town and the people they represent would have already done so,” Stewart said.

The action was not a political ploy, Stewart said, but was the commission’s duty to the town’s residents.

“The mayor has become a detrimental liability to Waxhaw in more ways than one,” Stewart said. “She has done nothing more this term to lead this town and to lead this board than to occasionally wield a gavel.”

Commissioner Sean Poccia said he was honored when Gardner asked him to run for town council in 2011.

“I was a little bit in awe,” he said.

He put her on a pedestal, he said.

“As I got to know here, I gave her credit for being of the highest ethical standards,” he said. “And I was personally devisdated over the last year of seeing how the mayor has conducted herself.”

Many residents asked the board to remove Gardner, but that was not possible, Poccia said.

Gardner was visibly upset during commissioners statements but said nothing in her defense. Hours before the commission meeting, Gardner released the following statement:

“As you may know, on 9 June, I was accused of a traffic law violation.  Those accusations are being addressed through our legal system as is done for any other citizen of our state and town.

“Please remember that anyone is innocent until proven otherwise.  I am and will follow proper, legal process. My lack of response until now is based upon advice most receive in this type of situation and has been intended to allow an objective and fair approach to the circumstances.  The system must be allowed to work for me just as it would for any one of you.

“It is within the scope of the responsibilities of the board of commissioners to explore any potential violation of the town’s ethics policy.  However, any findings, regardless of the situation, should be based on one’s performance of official duties and not subjected to hearsay, rumors, innuendo, or libelous or slanderous statements.

“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.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to those who have offered words of encouragement and support and who have spoken up on my behalf because they know my character, accomplishments and vision for the town of Waxhaw.”