OPINION — ‘You Just Can’t Fight City Hall’

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OPINION — I am the person who filed the Code of Ethics complaint against Peachtree City Mayor Learnard.

I have been informed they dismissed the complaint based on two technicalities; one based on my failure to meet all the requirements as set forth in the Ordinance, and the hearing officer said my complaint was not justified. [The pdf file is available below.]

Maybe it is time for the citizens of Peachtree City to decide. You can tell me what you think.

Did Mayor Learnard, in fact, have two sponsored campaign events, where campaign contributions were received, and attendees received free food? Yes.

Six months after she was sworn into office, did the sponsor of the event receive a very favorable decision for a zoning change to build a mixed-use building containing 12 condominiums that they can sell for over 6 million dollars? Yes.

Did Mayor Learnard list a payment or a “donation in kind” for the cost of those two events on her Campaign Finance Reports? No.

Did Mayor Learnard cast the deciding vote following the Public Hearing for the zoning change? Yes. It was a 3-2 vote with King, Prebor and Learnard voting “Yes” and Caola and Destadio voted “No”.

Did I speak at the public hearing and clearly outline that, “anyone who had an ex parte relationship with the applicants should recuse themselves. That included getting a free pizza or a campaign contribution”? Yes. Check the June 16 meeting minutes if you didn’t know the answer.

Did Mayor Learnard even hesitate to vote? No.

Will Mayor Learnard come forward and admit the two events were events that generated campaign donations, the venue and food were provided to her supporters at no cost to her?

Will she admit the value of the venue, the amount of the pizzas and the campaign donations she received at the two unreported events exceeds the threshold of what constitutes donations at a level that should have caused her to recuse herself from voting on the zoning change?

On the night of the hearing and vote, why didn’t she, at the very least, admit to the donation and ask for legal clarification whether it required her to recuse herself from the vote?

Oh, yeah, if she had recused herself, it would have been a 2-2 tie. A tie is a loss and the zoning change would have been defeated and not eligible for re-submission for 180 days.

The hearing officer said I didn’t clearly state the violation … yet he acknowledged that the events happened, as evidenced on social media, and by Mayor Learnard’s response to the complaint. She is, right now, being permitted to update her campaign finance reports to reflect the donations for the two events.

I made an allegation of something that really did happen, but I didn’t state the case properly per the ordinance, or clearly enough, in the hearing officer’s opinion. So even though it happened, my complaint is being dismissed.

The zoning change still stands.

Mayor Learnard is being permitted to amend her campaign finance report to account for the “donation in kind”. Will she also ask to overturn the zoning change vote?

And one more thing. Will Mayor Learnard admit that it’s probably not a good idea for Peachtree City to use C. Bradford Sears as a hearing officer for any complaint filed by a citizen in Peachtree City against a member of the Peachtree City Council or City staff, when C. Bradford Sears used to be partners with Ted Meeker, who is the current Peachtree City Attorney?

I’d like to know what my fellow citizens think.

If you had the information I had, would you have filed a complaint?

Are you happy with the outcome?

Maybe some of you will give this some thought as we go to the polls to elect a new City Council member in a matter of days. If Mayor Learnard had investigated and divulged the truth about Councilwoman Caola she would still be in office and we wouldn’t be paying $48,000 for an election, and another $40,000 for a run-off.

You might want to look closely at who the Mayor has endorsed (Kenneth Hamner), because she likely expects that person to vote with her on every issue. If you’re not happy with her voting record then whatever you do, don’t vote for anyone she has endorsed.

After all, elections have consequences.

You get what you vote for.

Although, I didn’t vote for her.

[Suzanne Brown is retired after 21 years in federal law enforcement, has a BS from Cornell and an MS from Colorado State, and has lived in Peachtree City for 3 years. She often speaks at local government meetings during public comment time, pointing out various laws and regulations that need to be followed to preserve our communities, and in support of a patriotic agenda.]

Below is the decision in the ethics complaint:

27 COMMENTS

  1. Hometown 600

    … and Partners Pizza and the Royals have been very good to Peachtree City. They have been here since nearly the beginning and have donated their time, space and pizza to nearly every school coupon book, non-profit organization and citizen initiative created for the last 47 years. I know from working on local campaigns that the family is very accommodating with allowing signs on their property to all candidates… not just to whomever they might favor in any particular election. Did any candidates ask for space to meet at Partners and were turned down?
    Knowing how much money, effort and time local candidates put into elections, It’s nonsensical to believe any of the individuals that make up our city council would be dumb enough to swing a vote for ten Bens and pizza.
    Maybe Ms. Brown has another motive? Who knows. But despite not presenting her complaint properly, the city went to great lengths to give her the detailed answers to them anyway. There isn’t any substantial nexus between the donation and the alleged improper vote, and if mayor and council must recuse themselves every time they happen to know someone involved in an action brought to the table, no one would be left standing to consummate the vote. Seems to me it is just sour grapes.

    • Mike, I appreciate the loyalty you have always expressed for our current mayor. However, you’re most recent post simply offers opinions and no real facts. I agree that it would be far-fetched to think $100 and Pizza would sway anyone into how they cast their vote but what does seem to be factual is a failure to properly report such contributions. If you can state why the ethics complaint was factually invalid, I am listening. However to Express mere opinions does not address the crux of the issue and only serves to rationalize.

  2. I wonder if Suzanne ever directly asked the Mayor point blank about this donation in kind – before the June 16 council meeting? Seems to me that if it bugged Suzanne so badly, she’d address it privately with the mayor before addressing it publicly…..

  3. I agree with you completely. I agree there was a conflict of interest that should have required the Mayor to recuse herself. She never would. This is exactly what she wants and is working toward and is her bread and butter.

    The incest of the hearing officer is troubling also. Learnard, King and Prebor have to go. King and Learnard are what I expected but Prebor surprised me. I guess his business thrives on more and more residences then he can retire and jet to sun and fun.

    I am sold on Cling Holland. He has articulated an understanding of all our problems well and stands strong on not approving stackable housing. Hamner and Crane both make exceptions. Holland also understands that short-term rentals, as well as increased rentals of any kind will diminish our city. It is critical that you get to know the candidates and vote, and vote wisely.

  4. You did what you thought was right Ms Brown and for that you should be commended. Not following proper ‘ filing procedures’ seemed like a lame response by the hearing officer but his further reasoning for finding the complaint unjustified has merit IMO. Still the Mayor should probably have recused herself after you questioned her at the hearing about the potential conflict. I’m not sure what happens from here, probably nothing which is probably why you titled this article ‘you can’t fight City Hall’. We sure have had some controversy early on with our new Mayor and Council.

  5. My total support to Mrs. Suzanne Brown, my parents are ones of the affected residents by the rezoning living at Dover Square, not one opposed to rebuild a commercial building, the problem here is the multiple uses, but the main thing here, vote on favor to a campaign contributor is corruption, and because Mrs Suzanne missed to meet some items on the legal process, the fact still there and must need to be investigated, period, the residents deserve a explanation

  6. I’m happy they voted to replace a building that’s (literally) falling apart with something nice that will last into the future, versus more continued decay.

    Also 3yrs?!?!? I’ve talked opposite you at several meetings. Did you just roll into town and decide your way was the only way? Some of us have been here for decades. I get the sentiment of the long term residents but this is pretty weird.

  7. Would I have filed it, no. Certainly not over free pizza…maybe Johnnys…but I digress.

    Am I glad the old Partners building will be updated, yes. Ie your query about “the outcome”. The Partners folks have been very good for Peachtree City, IMHO.