Mayor wants her way: here’s a list so far


OPINION — After watching Peachtree City’s February 6 workshop meeting and last week’s testimony regarding Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, it is bewildering how assertive the people abusing the system can be, acting outside the rules, and showing no remorse when caught.

I was hoping that Mayor Kim Learnard would offer some form of apology at the February 15 city council meeting for violating the city’s charter and misleading our two newest council members Suzanne Brown (no relation) and Laura Johnson at the February 6 workshop meeting (see:

Per usual, she refused. There is a definite trend in Learnard’s misbehavior.

Undermining our trust?

With Learnard, the problems began almost as soon as she was sworn in as mayor. Learnard took over the council with the most city council experience, knowing the charter, ordinances, protocols, and state law surrounding ethics, meetings, and records.

Unfortunately, Learnard used her vast city council experience to mislead, hassle, embarrass, and coerce the newbie council members in attempts to force them to side with her on her controversial objectives.

Immediately, the ship ran aground on “speed humpgate” when speed humps began appearing in various parts of the multiuse path system. Local residents instantly began questioning what had happened. There was no public meeting agenda item, no public vote on implementation, and no public approval to expend taxpayer dollars. The humps just showed up.

In violation, Learnard and her colleagues had secretly approved the project behind the scenes. Knowing better, Learnard as mayor supported the backdoor approval of the speed humps and let the new Council Member Gretchen Caola take all the blame.

Clearly, Learnard knew the state laws on open meetings and open records. There were no excuses. The two new first-time Council Members Caola and Frank Destadio were misled into believing that Learnard was heading the effort to implement the speed humps in a lawful, permissible manner. The similarity to the situation concerning the February 6 workshop meeting is remarkable.

After the citizens rebelled against the sneak attack, Learnard later, in violation again, secretly ordered the removal of speed humps, acting with no public meeting agenda item, again and no public vote for the action taken, again. So, after being criticized for violating state law the first time, she did it a second time, showing no remorse whatsoever.

Next came multiple violations of the Georgia Open Meeting Act when she conducted secret, closed-door meetings on zoning variances with no public notice, no meeting agenda, and no meeting minutes (see: It was a clear violation of state law and instead of issuing an apology when caught, she deflected.

Another example was Learnard’s personal shifting of the priorities of the projects in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). She moved her lower-ranking pet project to the top-tier list in opposition to the official SPLOST Committee’s recommendations (see:

Keep in mind that as Learnard was claiming to show us the definitive list of needed infrastructure projects that required our vote in the SPLOST referendum, the city government was holding on to another list of $10 million worth of additional immediate needs behind the scenes (see: Her colleagues were not informed of the other list before the passage of the SPLOST.

Some of the hidden projects would have definitely replaced projects in the SPLOST priority list presented to the voters. But with the passage of the SPLOST referendum, the mayor’s top-tier project substitutions are now locked in by law.

Without ever mentioning a desire to do so while campaigning, the mayor changed the comprehensive plan to allow for more apartment complexes all over the city (see:

After new Councilman Destadio made a motion to strike the language allowing more apartments across the city, Learnard then turned to the other new Council Member Caola and attempted to coerce her into withdrawing her second to the motion so it would die (this is how desperate she was to sneak the apartments into the plan).

Destadio demanded multiple times that Learnard cease with the rude and intimidating behavior and allow the vote on his motion. However, then-Councilman Mike King, who supported the mayor’s changes, used a leverage tactic saying if the pathway to more apartments in the plan was not approved, the city would be jeopardizing $2 million in building impact fees.

It was a lie. Caola was coerced into voting the other way with the mayor and King. It’s an amazing resemblance to the February 6 workshop meeting, preying on the inexperience of a new council member.

On numerous occasions, Learnard has told the constituents, “City Council passed a city budget that included a zero-millage rate increase.” That’s a smoke screen and what the mayor neglects to say is the council voted for a walloping tax increase due to elevated property values and their deliberately not rolling back the millage rate.

2 + 2 = TROUBLE

Beyond Learnard’s attempts to mislead, hassle, embarrass, and coerce the new council members in public meetings, she also uses private closed-door meetings to get her point across, outside of our view.

On a routine basis, the city manager and all the department directors meet privately with all the council members two at a time, called the “two-by-two” meetings. There is nothing illegal about having such meetings if they are only information-based.

Once the council members begin giving directions by creating city action, expenditure, or policy in the secretive two-by-two meetings, they violate the law, becoming a de facto vote of the council outside of the public forum.

New to the process, Caola and Destadio were led to believe that there was nothing wrong with how the two-on-two meetings were handled. In fact, the speed humpgate was initiated and approved in such secret meetings.

Much to his credit, when Destadio learned that he and Caola were being led astray, he “emailed the other members to urge a change in their practice of making decisions on issues without the issues ever showing up as agenda items in a public meeting,” (see:

Destadio said, “What bothers me is that obtaining three members’ concurrence [in private meetings] does not constitute approval. Items still must be put on the agenda and brought for a vote.”

Of course, the obvious question arises of why are routine private meetings necessary. Why can’t the public be allowed to hear how their city is functioning? Why hide those discussions?

The meanness of it all

If you read my columns often, you will know that I have chided Mayor Learnard on many occasions for her rudeness and badgering of her colleagues. All of it is on the meeting videos.

I cited the lies to Caola above. There were many times when Learnard would cut Destadio off in mid-sentence, pester him to speed up a comment or stop him from speaking altogether.

It’s glaringly apparent that Learnard does not tolerate opposing views.

Poor new Councilman Clint Holland felt the sting of Learnard’s whip not long after being sworn in. Holland’s offense was he wrote a polite letter of support for then-candidate Suzanne Brown.

Learnard opposed Brown’s candidacy and sent a nasty intimidating email to Holland (see:

In a bout of total irony, Learnard told Holland, “This is to try — for what I hope is the last time — to help you understand the role of City Council members in Peachtree City.” That was rich, indeed, from the mayor who liberally violates state law and the city’s charter.”

Learnard referred to Holland’s thoughtful endorsement of Brown as an “ignorant blather,” followed by, “What you put on display for all to see is that either you don’t know the truth or you have total disregard for the truth. Either is reprehensible.”

A bitter Learnard called Holland’s letter “a public display of division and partisanship.” Her backhanded slap was two-faced and insincere because when Learnard was a candidate she wrote in a letter to The Citizen in November 2021 saying, “I am endorsed by three current City Council members and a long list of community leaders across the political spectrum,” (see: Seriously, you can’t make hypocrisy like this up.

Learnard finished her malicious email to new Councilman Holland saying, “Clint, I sincerely hope you will work to regain the shattered trust of your team.”

I invite you to read Holland’s short endorsement letter that caused Learnard to foam at the mouth and cast vengeance upon the new councilman (see:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the environment our four new council members have endured. No one deserves to be treated that way.

The Curnow conundrum

Up to this point, new City Manager Bob Curnow has aided Learnard in her misdeeds, even violating state law himself. In our hybrid-mayor form of government, the mayor has no more authority than the other council members. Kowtowing to the mayor and following her misdirection is not in the best interests of the city or the city council.

Planning with the mayor behind the backs of the other members of the council will not be tolerated. When there are meetings with other agencies such as the Georgia Department of Transportation, both Curnow and Learnard have a responsibility to fully inform the other members of the council on exactly what transpired, bringing them up-to-date also on communications that follow.

The inability to supply the council members with documents, presentations, etc., pertinent to the workshop meeting agenda items in advance is inexcusable. A well-prepared council member is an asset to the community. Just as important, the citizens also deserve to see those materials in advance.

One-word agenda items without descriptions are not informative and are downright insulting.

Both Learnard and Curnow need to respect the new council members and the constituents.

[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. You can read all his columns by clicking on his photo below.]


  1. If this is true, the mayor could face criminal penalties. Georgia Open Meetings Act states, “Any person knowingly and willfully conducting or participating in a meeting in violation of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor….”.

  2. Could it be that our former mayor is suffering from a loss of familial bonding, or some sort of isolation? Constantly demeaning those those who disagree with him and even those who have been proved more successful in elected office? After all, didn’t our former mayor run for reelection and subsequently dismissed? Mr Destadio said it best that these articles actually hurt the city in that future potential business owners will choose elsewhere after reading these constant tirades.
    While I was in office a friend described our former mayor as “one who would set your house ablaze in order to take credit for helping you to put it out.” These words still ring true, and it’s high time all of us should consider helping move our city forward vice the opposite.

    • Mr King – I responded to Councilman Destadio’s post below to ask for evidence of where Steve is off base, but have gotten no reply. Your post is similar to Mr Destadio’s.

      Your first point is that Steve should not “demean” the mayor or others in public office, a point made weak by promptly demeaning Steve. Not a good start for you.

      Second, you repeat Mr Destadio’s claim that Steve’s opinions are harming PTC with potential businesses. Proof? Having been part of several major corporate expansions and relocations, I can say one citizen’s opinion of the local government never even entered the equation.

      You conclude with even more flame-throwing at Steve. At this point, it appears you are less serious about informing others, and more out to tar Steve.

      I don’t know Steve, and I don’t agree with everything he writes. What you say about him might even be true. But I appreciate that he brings facts – – at least they have not been countered by you, Mr Destadio or others so far.

      I’m old enough to remember when journalists investigated, used facts and informed their readers of what was happening in the community, positive or not. I’m skeptical at those looking to silence a voice that still does this.

        • Hi Councilman King:

          I hope you are well. Since we’re all here, why not discuss it here in the open? That is what bothers me about our politician class. Unwilling to come in the open and say what you think and mean what you say.

          I am sure you didn’t mean it that way, but just the same. Have your say.

          • I am well, thank you, as I trust you are.
            Just my habit of preferring to discuss such items across a table. I believe this is a much better means of getting to know the individual with whom I’m speaking. You might call it building trust or just being old fashioned.

          • I actually agree with Mike here about old school face to face. I had an on line spat with Vic Painter. We actually met and talked it out. It went great, and Vic is a good guy.

        • Mr King – Thanks for the offer. I enjoy a good conversation, especially about the issues of our day.

          Perhaps our paths will cross sometime. Now, however, no one else would benefit from the information you’d provide.

          In a world of gaslighting and where feelings are passed off as fact, we’re losing the ability to discuss issues to get to the truth.

          You and Mr Destadio made claims about Steve, his motives and truthfulness. It seems best to me that you both lay out what’s behind those claims in the same forum as they were made.

      • Exactly. Why can’t we comment without name calling and attempted character assassination. Argue the actions and policies . That should apply to us all. The national political conversation is already infected with pettiness and name calling. Let’s stop doing it locally. Both Steve and Mayor Kim are both good people. We may not agree with them but we shouldn’t slander them nor should they slander each other.

        • Well said Gman! We need to talk to each other in the sunlight. Too many one off conversations. I appreciate that Steve and Kim have different opinions that a subject we all have passion around.

          Too many think that by attacking they are winning and I see the opposite. I find that if I make my case, have your say and read what others say, maybe I might learn something or atleast understand the other side

          • That is also the way I see it, some theories become fact and some do not. Inquiry is a natural way to grow knowledge.

  3. I have to ask the Councilman Frank Destadio what is incorrect in Steve Brown’s piece. You don’t list a single thing and neither do the other commenters. Councilman Holland asked the attorney in your meeting if the mayor and city manager approved variances were against the law and the attorney said yes. Critizing the government doing bad things isn’t running Peachtree City down. Just don’t do things that you shouldn’t be doing and the city will look better.

  4. I usually agree with Steve but I think he is off a bit with his recollection of “humpgate” or “Coalagate”. The whole speed bump fiasco was initiated by Gretchen and her husband Joe. Frank backed them up. Kim did nothing to stop this abuse, probably to curry future favor from them. Gretchen and Joe even went as far as to go out on back porch and verbally harass golf carts that were lawfully using a golf cart path beside their house, a path they wanted closed completely. A video of this incident was actually documented on Facebook, which I actually sent to Steve. The speed bumps were just the first power play by Gretchen, Joe, and Frank before they obtained their ultimate goal, which was the permanent closure of the golf cart path beside her home. When she and Joe realized the word had gotten out what was going on, they realized the gig was up and they sold their home and moved to FL.

    • This is not exactly correct. While Gretchen had some less popular ideas at times, the council approved and executed the project. Neither the council or city mansger took accountability for their collective misstep and instead used Gretchen as a scapegoat. Gretchen wasn’t soley to blame, everyone was and all Kim had rondo was step forward, apologize and promise to make it right. Instead, the city attorney supposedly told Gretchen not to talk to the media about what had happened and instead Kim or the city attorney would handle public relations; and that is where they pointed the finger to Gretchen and that is the story most people heard. Ultimately, when both residents and people swelled around her own during all hours (including drones) she felt uncomfortable and chose to leave. However, on the flip side, Gretchen wrongly try to close a path next to her house. It’s true it’s half way on her property, but the city has an easement there so she could not close or build on that space.

      • She did not look like much of a scapegoat when she was filmed out on her back porch with her husband Joe verbally harassing folks that were lawfully using the golf cart path beside her home, telling them incorrectly they were on private property.

  5. Steve, please stop running PTC down in your newspaper articles. It does nothing but hurt the City when we are trying to bring new business to our doors.

    As a former Mayor you certainly know that no company, who is looking for a place to expand and bring in more employees, will look at social media articles such as this, and be impressed with our city. Your articles
    are not 100 % accurate, and usually based on innuendo or personal opinion.

    If you had actual facts, charge someone. If not, please stop throwing stones. You are better than this. I respected you when you were the Mayor and the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. These articles are beneath you. Finally, I respect Bob Curnow as our City Manager. We spent months researching 75 candidates and he was selected unanimously. He is a solid individual with a lot of experience.

    Frank Destadio
    PTC Councilman

    • Councilman Destadio – a couple of questions to clarify your post.

      Is your intent that Steve paper over concerns about the mayor’s conduct to create a positive impression of PTC on new businesses? That would imply that PTC’s brand is only as good as the mayor’s PR.

      You state that Steve is not 100% accurate. That leaves a range from .01% to 99.99% correct. Could you share specifics of what he got wrong that would help us assess the veracity of what he wrote?

      Are you saying that there is no room for critique between silence and filing legal charges?

      Finally, a minor quibble. His column is labeled “Opinion”, so yes, what he writes is his personal opinion. (But he does also cite to multiple facts, which brings me back to the accuracy question.)

      Thanks in advance.

  6. Steve is absolutely correct, and we all (including me) see the hypocrisy and underhandedness in the way Learnard constantly subverts the law and the process. She cannot be trusted with anything. The closed-door meetings and the overt bullying is just the tip of the iceberg, and we all got a glimpse with the cart path speed bump debacle. This will cost us plenty. Very disappointing.

    • If, in fact, Mr. Brown truly believes his accusations toward a City official, I should think it his civic duty to initiate a civil lawsuit against the appropriate City activity, or at the very least, initiate an ethics complaint against the official.

  7. Mr. Brown, when you were Mayor, you also seemed assertive to some of us. I don’t see anything wrong with being assertive when it comes to business before the City Council. I prefer it to a namby-pamby leader who demonstrates a lack of confidence or preparedness. Also, I see nothing that appears coercive about our Honorable Mayor. Our Mayor appears dynamic and willing to put in the extra effort to address issues and take care of things. I may not always agree with our Mayor, but I do respect the Mayor as our elected City Council leader. Publicly insulting our elected officials does nothing to help us. Questioning actions and decisions are fine, public accusations are not.