Mayor moves against open access to City Council agenda

The First Amendment of the US Constitution. Shutterstock image.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution. Shutterstock image.

Mayor Control-Control-Control Learnard is at it again tonight, except she has an added target: her own council members.

She wants to require that a majority of council must vote — not in an open meeting and not in any officially recorded vote — before adding any item to the official City Council agenda that then will be voted on in public at a public meeting. One could argue the measure takes away their elected power and is thus illegal on its face.

And if that’s not insult enough to the mayor’s oft-stated desire for openness in government, she wants — just like last year — to delete your ordinance-granted power to ask to appear yourself in person on the council agenda in a public meeting to petition the elected officials for a redress of your grievance.

Here’s the proposed new ordinance:

“(c) Agenda item request. City staff with approval from the city manager, or the mayor and two Council members, or three councilmembers may request to have an item placed on the agenda, by filing such request in writing with the city clerk prior to noon on the Thursday preceding the council meeting. Such item may not be placed on the agenda if council has already decided the issue within 180 days.”

Until now, any one council member had the right to get an item on the agenda without getting permission from anybody else on council. That is a common-sense power of an elected official.

If Mayor Control-Control-Control has her way, that ability of an elected official to represent constituents gets taken away.

Instead, three members of council have to agree together — in secret, away from the public eye and outside a public meeting — to put an item on the agenda.

The big downside is that the same three have been granted the secret power to keep some topic off the agenda, in effect voting against something out of sight and without public notice.

That vote for or against an agenda item — I strongly contend — is an official action that requires advance public notice, a public meeting, an officially recorded vote and minutes released to the public about the topic and who voted for or against. That’s in keeping with the Georgia Open Meetings law.

Mayor Control-Control-Control has thus opened the council to legal action for violating the Open Meetings law.

And if the city clerk refuses to release the written requests for agenda access and the votes for or against such access, the city clerk will be in violation of the Georgia Open Records Act.

The other problem is that the proposed change gives more power to the city manager than to city council members to decide what the council will be voting on in open meetings. That’s an anti-democratic (small “d”) move away from elected officials setting the policies for the city.

The staff time argument is non-sensical. Citizens have availed themselves of this redress right fewer than a half-dozen times in the past several years. And if staff is occasionally asked to work overtime, these well-paid public servants can receive overtime or other compensation.

This removal of a right of redress and this removing the right of individual elected officials (there are only five of them) is a bad, bad, bad idea that should be voted down tonight 5-to-0.

Whoever votes in favor of Control-Control-Control has betrayed their constituents and the voters of Peachtree City.

Below is my opinion column from a year ago that deals with the same issue but which then affected only the citizens, and not the individual council members.

OPINION — Will the Peachtree City Council vote against the First Amendment tonight?

[Feb. 16, 2023]

How is that even possible?

I suggest to you that the ordinance provision the council is considering voting against tonight is — upon further reflection — the near-perfect implementation of the First Amendment right of the people “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Think with me: the city ordinance that allows an individual private citizen to place an item for discussion on the official meeting agenda of the Peachtree City Council is as pure a form of petitioning the government as I know.

Years ago, a city council thought enough of its citizens to give them a place at the table of power. If your item is on the official council meeting agenda, it cannot be ignored, passed over, buried or forgotten. It must at least get a hearing before the persons elected to govern this city. And then entered into the historical minutes of that official government meeting, available to be read and discussed by future citizens.

Democracy in a constitutional republic doesn’t get any more functional and grassroots than that. And government — local or higher — doesn’t get much closer to honoring in practice the First Amendment than that.

And after a local resident rediscovered that nearly forgotten right in the city code, the City Council at its meeting tonight at City Hall will be forced to listen to her petition for a redress of grievances — in this case about a potential change to voting precincts across the city and county.

And somebody on City Council and/or city staff really dislikes that a mere citizen would be allowed to intrude on their lofty deliberations. Thus a vote tonight on removing that right from the city code, and thus returning the citizens back to their appropriate place of being spectators to decisions that affect their lives.

Folks, I am in awe of the unknown (to me) past council members who thought highly enough of their constituents to enshrine that basic First Amendment right into the city code that binds the council to listen.

That right to petition does not mean that you will get your way. It simply means that people in power will be compelled to at least listen to your petition. They still may deny your petition, but at least it will be heard.

Is that right important to you? Tonight we’ll see how important that right is to the five members of the City Council. Because tonight, your City Council members will be voting for or against your First Amendment right that’s enshrined in the ordinances of Peachtree City.

Do Mayor Kim Learnard and council members Mike King, Phil Prebor, Frank Destadio and Clint Holland want you to continue to bother them with your pesky petitions? Or will they kick you and your petitions to the curb?

Tonight the First Amendment will get a vote, up or down, yes or no.

[Cal Beverly has been the editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]


  1. For what it’s worth, I really never thought this would be approved. About a year ago this same proposal was aired and my comments were “if it ain’t broke why are we fixing it?” Now, if I’m reading what is now approved is that three Council Members can effectively shut off any dissenting topic of the two minority Members. Are really saving valuable time, or we simply too thin skinned to be criticized? After all, most Council meetings are over by nine o’clock.
    Times have indeed changed.

    • Mike King Finally Something We Both Agree On. ” To find a solution to a problem you must 1st know what the problem is.” Thurssday night PTC Council Agenda Ordiance Change Vote, did not solve a problem , because there was no problem regarding Agenda Items. To Stand Up = Courage , Suzanne Brown & Clint Holland showed great courage Thursday Night vote change the Agenda Item Ordiance . As for the “Resolution in Opposition of TDK ” over time Resolutions can get lost. Thank You to All 5 PTC Council Members who had the courage to stand up and voted in favor of “Resolution in Opposition of TDK.” Peachtree does not need nor can we afford to build a Bypass for Coweta County

  2. Council must have changed our Ordinance last year; we common folk previously could have placed an item on the Council meetings’ agendas. I didn’t realize we now (prior to last night) required a Councilmember to sponsor a citizen requested Council meeting agenda item. With last night’s Council meeting, I’m more confused than ever. Council doesn’t seem to want our input. I’m 0 for 3 with the Mayor and City Council over the last year. Maybe I don’t belong here.

    • Doug, I think Kim’s original amendment was definitely too restrictive. Laura amended it and perhaps I’m wrong but I don’t think it’ll restrict freedom of speech and the process will be made public and transparent. But yes, a majority of the council will have to decide whether the request will get on the agenda and their vote will be on record . I think the impetus is to save staff resources and time on requests which would probably not go forward anyway. I don’t know if I’m clearly expressing myself. But I think the problems with the original amendment were resolved. I think we all need to read the ordinance as amended.

      • Gman, I concur with what you have stated. The ability, as an individual citizen to formally address City Council is like having a “silver bullet.” It’s not responsibly used unless truly needed. Authority has taken that bullet away. There are no more silver bullets in Peachtree City. Councilperson Johnson’s effort is commendable, but it did not restore that small right we carried. I know I will read the amended Ordinance.

        • i see your point Doug. But I think the harmful portions of the original amendment were removed, That said, if I see an example of someones request not being heard and openly discussed and voted on by Council I might change my mind. Anyway, don’t move. We need citizens like you to be involved.

  3. I watched the livestream of the April 4 th meeting. They did vote 3 to 2 to approve how an item can be placed on an agenda but only after Laura Johnson did a yeoman’s job to rewrite the original restrictive amendment. I now believe the new process will be an improvement and not restrict citizens input and will also be transparent.

    The Council did also approve Ms Brown’s proposal to be on record as opposing the TDK extension but the Mayor pointed out that she thought it was an unnecessary action and that it could hurt future regional cooperative efforts. All in all a good example of democracy in action. I was impressed.

    • Agreed in that it was democracy in action, but I didn’t get my way with it. I wanted to maintain the right to seek redress or demand consideration without having a sponsor, multiple signatories, or litigation. What was once granted is now taken away. What we did was take away another means to formally appeal to Council. At this point, I don’t give a flip about what Twinkle Toes thinks is necessary or not. I am unimpressed!

    • Gman – I also watched the Council livestream where they voted to make agenda access more restricted, and share Doug Tucker’s disappointment with the outcome. Governments take rights and freedoms away a little at a time so most don’t notice how much we’ve lost until it’s too late.

      The city attorney seemed to confirm that the mayor’s proposal was outright illegal. The mayor was almost giddy to have Laura Johnson save her more public embarrassment by putting lipstick on this pig of a proposal for her, instead of letting it die.

      As Clint Holland said, agenda access was changed a year ago, and this additional restriction was “a problem in search of a solution”. Suzanne Brown was equally strong in opposition.

      I thought Councilman Destadio would join Holland and Brown, but he took up the “save staff time” rationale for jumping on board Johnson’s re-write. There were no statistics given that showed this would be a huge benefit, just broad generalities. It sounded very weak in comparison to the added burden on residents’ ability to get before council.

      Here’s a thought: rather than use the half million dollars intended to make the cart bridge over 54 pretty, pay for some staff overtime to clear out all these pesky agenda proposals rather than just turning them off.

      Now we should expect much faster action from staff and council since they are no longer overwhelmed by unnecessary resident, (and even one or two council member-sponsored) proposals. We must also remember who stood for us and future PTC residents.

  4. I suppose you can’t take representative government too far. I think each of our council members should review their past desires to address their city council. Would they have wanted to be constrained in this manner? I think not.

  5. As Councilman I propose video taping Council meetings. Logson and his two cohorts opposed.

    As Mayor I move forward with the proposal.

    Communications with the citizens is essential. Open meetings are essential.

    Since 2013 it has been constant tax increases, counsel takeovers of authorities and more.

    Citizens of Peachtree City must decide what kind of government they want. That means being aware and involved.

  6. On my 1st day as mayor Learnard, Imker and Fleisch told me I was just a figurehead. If I did not agree, then was told I should resign. Then told I did not need an office.

    Look at Fleisch’s office in her tenure.

    The war was on. They won. Remember what followed.

    If voters do not pay attention, it will happen again.

  7. Without names and faces, I fully agree. The opportunity to address the Council helps positive image for our Council and Peachtree City. It helps demonstrate Peachtree City’s uniqueness. It reinforces the spirit of our Fourth of July celebrations. I will like to see the City Council table this Ordinance 1218, Sec. 2-33 agenda item again or just vote against it. The Sec. 2-33 does not “eliminate our citizens’ rights to redress,” as I previously stated. It does make our right to redress much more difficult. There is no legitimate reason, other than to streamline administrative procedures, to enact it. There are many personal concerns with allowing citizens direct access to the Council meetings’ agendas, but I know of NO PUBLIC REASON to deny citizens direct access to the Council meetings’ agendas. Public comment does not require Council recognition. An agenda item does and gives the presenter an opportunity to provide much more information about the subject (graphics, white papers, analysis, raw data, etc.). If one reviews March 16, 2023 Council meeting minutes, found in the April 6, 2023 Council meeting, one will discover a several revisions of the previously submitted change. This change is more restrictive than the previously submitted version. Also, think of how to seek redress if this restrictive change is approved. Petition? Litigation? We don’t need that; we emphasize the need for civil public discourse.

    If we, as citizens or Peachtree City-located business owners, need to present an in-depth public request or commendation to our governing body, we should simply request an opportunity be placed on the Council’s agenda through the Clerk and allow the Clerk to cue the item until it may fit into the Council meetings’ agenda. Give the Clerk 90 days to find an appropriate date. This is going to be one of those Council decisions that may make our Councilmembers heroes or villains.