What 3 council members ripped away from citizens last week


Our city council in Peachtree City just took another step backward. It was painful watching the city council meeting on April 4.

Mayor Kim Learnard, always claiming to be a victim and always skewering what we love about the city, made her spirited move to prevent any issue she disagrees with from ever receiving a vote from the city council. Unbelievably, she proposed to have a majority of the city council, three members, agree to place anyone’s agenda item on a council meeting agenda for consideration.

The change is a drastic movement away from any elected official can place any item on a council meeting agenda.

Learnard previously asked Council Member Suzanne Brown (no relation) last month to remove her resolution opposing the hazardous TDK Extension project. Brown rushed to get the resolution on the April 4 agenda before Learnard could prevent her from placing the resolution on an agenda for good. More on that later.

This is not Learnard’s first try at keeping things off the meeting agendas. In 2023, the mayor prodded the death of a time-honored practice in Peachtree City of allowing citizens to request an item be placed on an agenda for the council’s consideration. She succeeded in throwing obstacles in the way to make it more difficult for citizen taxpayers to participate (see: https://thecitizen.com/2024/04/04/mayor-moves-against-open-access-to-city-council-agenda/).

In fact, Suzanne Brown mentioned what caused Learnard to jump into action in 2023. Before becoming a council member, “I placed an issue on the City Council agenda to address disenfranchisement of voters in Rising Starr precinct after the special election, and then almost immediately a proposal was made to change the procedures for citizens to place items onto the agenda.”

Inept and Ineffective

As I presented in last week’s column, Learnard’s new proposal had several flaws, including possible violations of state law (see: https://thecitizen.com/2024/04/01/warning-subversion-of-public-access-to-the-agenda-for-the-peachtree-city-council-is-coming/). This was acknowledged in the April 4 council meeting.

Wanting also to have serious constraints on the ability to place items on a council agenda, Council Member Laura Johnson scrubbed some of Learnard’s proposed changes to ordinance #1218 (c), creating her own chaos and confusion, calling it a “compromise.” Learnard referred to Johnson’s new version of her proposal as “masterful,” so you know it had to be deviously restrictive.

To my surprise, Learnard admitted to polling all the council members behind the scenes on her agenda item saying, “I made sure to discuss this item with each and everyone of us before I would even consider putting it on a council meeting agenda.”

Of course, such backdoor activity from the mayor, having a full discussion on the issue outside the public’s eye, was one of the complaints on her proposed ordinance change that I mentioned previously and that Johnson felt compelled to alter.

Disenchantment with Council Member Johnson

Johnson had the advantage of running in last November’s election against Tamara Moore who initiated a crony real estate developer-centered political action committee called Plan for PTC. That gave novice Johnson the ability to coast while speaking in platitudes without knowing anything about government or any of the issues facing the city.

Johnson’s banal “four campaign cornerstones” were (1) preserve the village concept and green spaces, (2) represent families, (3) jobs and fiscal responsibility, and (4) integrity and transparency. For her entire campaign, Johnson was unable to elaborate on any of those overly broad topics.

When asked, I said that Johnson was a “50-50 candidate” at best. That turned out to be dead on target.

Johnson has become the council member who wants to come off as the person in the middle who will make up for Learnard’s radical actions and buffer the citizen-driven agenda of council members Suzanne Brown and Clint Holland. Like King Solomon, she offers to split the baby in half, but the only problem is we end up with a dead baby.

Up to this point, the citizens of Peachtree City have been very reluctant to give up their rights to participate in local government. (You will remember the Fleisch administration’s attempt to sue citizens who criticized them using taxpayers’ funds, and the massive backlash it received.)

Johnson dove in to save Learnard’s behind, attempting to strip away the egregious language in the mayor’s proposal for changing ordinance #1218 (C). However, it’s important to note that Johnson wanted the same outcome as Learnard’s tyrannical proposal, hence, Learnard called Johnson’s rewrite a “masterful” work.

Admitting “there were other scenarios discussed” in the backdoor discussions on the agenda item that Learnard referred to, Johnson feigned certain beliefs and virtues for crafting her proposal to limit free speech in the public forum. The word “transparency” was used over and over again to promote a proposal restricting public speech and public participation, straight out of Orwell’s “1984.”

The Johnson double standards

Get ready, here we go.

The core of Johnson’s alternative proposal was forcing elected officials and citizens to obtain the approval of a three-member cabal during the “Staff-Council Topics” section of a city council meeting where it can be immediately rejected without having to vote, instead of being able to simply place an item on the regular agenda.

Propagandizing, Johnson says, “My goal in this is to have a better relationship with my council members.” I am not sure how preventing your colleagues from placing an item of concern on a meeting agenda and saying their ideas have no merit creates a better relationship. Two council members strongly opposed Johnson’s motion at the meeting.

Johnson says, “My effort here is to bring things out in front of our public as much as we can and to open meetings.” The hypocrisy in this is she admitted to promoting Learnard’s agenda item and her revised version behind the scenes. Likewise, her scheme essentially keeps agenda items from colleagues and citizens she opposes off a council meeting agenda.

Johnson says, “When a council member places an item on the agenda, it lacks transparency as it does not include a memo from staff giving an explanation and thus causes confusion for our citizens.” If that is really an issue, why not require backup material to be submitted instead of going draconian and not permitting items at all?

Oh, and Johnson provided no backup material on her revised proposal for all those well-educated, confused citizens of Peachtree City. Johnson’s hypocrisy shows because she has no idea what she is doing.

Johnson says, “Items are at times hastily added to the agenda the last minute and become items for us to vote on the very next week creating a time and labor intensive process as we seek to understand the item’s need, purpose, quality, repercussions, and how we stand on the item.” Johnson is saying “hastily” is seven days in advance; unbelievable, we have done this for decades.

That excuse is channeling Kim Learnard, and it’s almost comical. But then, Johnson later says of her scheme, “council can bring any topic to the dais [for a majority to decide], and you can bring it the day of in council-staff topics,” after arguing minutes before that having a week to review an item under the former process was not enough time for her to “seek to understand the item’s need, purpose, quality, repercussions, and how we stand on the item.”

Members of past city councils would laugh at the thought that a week is not enough time to review an agenda item from a council member or citizen. Because Johnson does not understand the process, she does not know that an item can simply be moved to a future meeting if more information is needed.

Johnson claims, “Much work is created for an item that is possibly only supported by one council member.” Wait a minute, she said before there was no work on backup material for the agenda items. By the way, that “one council member” was elected by a majority of the voters in Peachtree City.

The confusion gets deeper when Johnson tells citizens wanting to place an item on an agenda, “You could have come to me today and I could bring that up tonight. So, it gets it in front of all of us even quicker and we each still have the ability to bring this topic forth for any of us to talk about during council staff topics.”

Dang, this is the same Johnson who complained about a week not being long enough to review an agenda item and griping about hastily presenting items with no “memo” from staff.

Johnson says, “Council members also have spent taxpayer’s dollars by going straight to the city attorney to get his approval” to ensure a proposed agenda item is in line with the city’s ordinances and state law. Maybe Johnson does not realize that’s actually a good thing and that the city attorney will review every item on the agenda before the meeting regardless.

In fact, the city attorney acknowledged at the council meeting that he had “a major concern” with “the previous proposal” submitted by Learnard that she did not clear through the attorney first, requiring Johnson to try to save Learnard’s plan with an alternative proposal.

(Tip for Johnson: the city attorney found the “major concern” with Learnard’s agenda item because he reviews the entire agenda before the meetings. You pay for it anyway.)

Johnson gets deeper in trouble, regarding not allowing items on an agenda, saying, “This would not be an official action. It is consensus on a future actionable item.” Wait, she claims the city council making an official decision during an official meeting on excluding a colleague’s official agenda item request for placement on an official agenda is not an official action. That’s insane.

Johnson had a Freudian slip explaining, “When that agenda comes out [approved by the three-member cabal] you know that the all of us we have voted on it, or not voted because it’s not, we’re not voting. It is a consensus on a future actionable item, and so during the time that we discuss this and approve it in order for it to officially go on an agenda.” She knows it’s an official action.

Calling it a “consensus” does not make it any less of an “official action.” The council colleague or the citizens are making an official request under Johnson’s scheme, and it requires an official vote in response. Johnson wants it both ways, wanting to kill other’s agenda items but “without the pressure of an official vote.” Learnard and Johnson do not want their nullifying something the citizens desire on their record.

Desperately trying to prove her point, Johnson says, “For me personally, if I’m going to bring something and bring it up in council staff topics, you will know that I will have gone to every single one of my council members, they will have known about this.” In other words, she will violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act with council members behind the scenes, polling for votes.

Johnson says, “I would present things in council-staff topics as if I were bringing something on an agenda.” Then why is a change in ordinance # 1218 even necessary? It makes no sense at all. Was not her main theme not to overburden staff by creating “memos” for items that a three-member cabal would not allow on an agenda? It was less burdensome before.

The truth

Johnson and Learnard attempted to explain why they need to keep some people from placing items on a city council agenda whom they disagree with and do not want to oppose in public, making the voters angry. It’s truly amazing how Learnard got Johnson to do all her dirty work.

Council Member Suzanne Brown called the proposal a “scam.”

“This is a solution that is looking for a problem that doesn’t exist,” Council Member Clint Holland explained. “So, quite honestly nothing is broken. We don’t have a problem right now. Why would we be looking for a solution when we don’t have a problem?”

The truth is that the city council meeting agendas are so pathetically soft that Holland’s comments are a severe understatement. The agendas give the appearance of the council members trying to complete the meeting in 45 minutes or less.

There is no overburdened process that requires draconian measures to limit agenda space.

Here are examples from the last three meetings where Learnard and Johnson say things are overwhelming. You decide.

First, see the meeting agenda for March 7. The meeting consisted of approving three sets of meeting minutes, four consent agenda items approved in one motion, and one new agenda item to purchase a piece of property they had already thoroughly discussed in previous meetings (see: https://peachtreecityga.portal.civicclerk.com/event/1984/files/agenda/2773).

The March 21 meeting agenda was much the same. There were two presentations, approving two sets of meeting minutes, three consent agenda items approved with one motion, and three items on infrastructure maintenance where they approved the lowest bidder (see: https://peachtreecityga.portal.civicclerk.com/event/73/files/agenda/2790).

Then there is this past meeting on April 4. There were four sets of meeting minutes, three consent agenda items approved with one motion, two prepared resolutions, two new agenda items on infrastructure maintenance where they approved the lowest bidder, and the mayor’s item to keep unwanted agenda items off the already anemic meeting agendas (see: https://peachtreecityga.portal.civicclerk.com/event/125/files/agenda/2912).

The Destadio dilemma

I have known Frank Destadio professionally and as a friend for over a decade. In the past, I have given Destadio high praise for taking a stand on some very important issues, sometimes he was the lone vote in opposition.

Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, Destadio has had to courageously fight a very serious health issue. It’s evident the toll the treatment has taken on him.

Probably, hundreds of citizens have asked me what has happened to Destadio and why is he flipping on issues. Many remember Destadio as the chairman of the planning commission, supporting public participation, soliciting comments from citizens in the audience, and allowing them time to speak on any agenda item with no time limit imposed.

It’s shocking to now see Destadio pushing measures to restrict free speech and the ability of fellow council members and citizens to place an item on a council meeting agenda.

My conclusion, whether correct or incorrect, is that brutal medical treatment is the culprit. I am watching a highly skilled engineer in a state of confusion, often exhausted, struggling with speech, and straining to create correspondence that makes sense.

I pray for Destadio’s health to return, and I am grateful that he has a beautiful wife and grown children to lean on as he labors to get well.

Destadio struggled at the April 4 meeting and his mind was so fuzzy that he did not understand what the rest of the council members were discussing.

Confusion was evident when he said, “The current ordinance that we worked on last year does just what they [Holland and Brown] said. You get one more person, you put it on the agenda. It doesn’t restrict anybody from doing anything. You just ask, you can, would you support it, yes, it’s on the agenda. Why do we keep saying we’re restricting people, we’re taking away their rights, it’s what’s currently there alright.” (Go to the video and see the mayor quickly cut him off.)

Destadio was referring to a previous ordinance change one year ago, thinking it would stay in place, not knowing the Learnard and Johnson proposal would wipe those changes out. He was under the impression the whole time that they were discussing something entirely different.

Unfortunately, Destadio cast the deciding third vote to restrict council members and citizens from placing an item on an agenda.

Although I am highly empathetic to Destadio’s situation, I cannot sit on my hands and watch him, unknowingly, wreck a government structure the citizens have supported for decades. I truly wish he would leave the council and concentrate on his health.

Your city council took another step backward on April 4.

I say “thank you” to Council Members Suzanne Brown and Clint Holland for defending free speech and public participation. Keep fighting the good fight.

[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. In all the years (34) I’ve lived in PTC our current mayor is the hardest working, most dedicated mayor we’ve had during those 34 years. Steve Brown, you seem sickly obsessed with her, and now you’re belittling the rest of the council members, what is it? Jealousy comes to mind. Why don’t you quit putting our city leaders down and try some positivity ? Or perhaps get some psychological counseling to help with your insecurities and resentment.

  2. It seems like the difference between the previous and the new ordinance is in the past, a citizen would submit an item to be put on the agenda and it took one councilmember/mayor to add it. Now, it will take a combination of 3 members/mayor to add it to the agenda. Is that the case?

  3. I suppose the best way forward, is to propose a well-structured ordinance change in 180 days to reinstate a citizen’s right to place an item on City Council’s Meeting agendas. I propose residents and business owners and their designated representatives, as well as Councilmembers and the City Manager, should be eligible to present items on City Council’s Meeting agendas. I believe it’s a good way to reestablish the trust and confidence between City Hall and the citizenry.

  4. If people who don’t pay much attention to PTC council read this, it should be abundantly clear we have a rogue mayor and two council members who carried the water for her to significantly restrict council agenda items. This action must be reversed.

    I hoped that Ms Johnson would be a thoughtful, common-sense member to partner with Ms Brown and Mr Holland, but the tortured logic and happy-speak she used to save the mayor’s proposal is disappointing. I don’t want Mr Destadio to resign, just get healthy and bring his logical thinking along with it.

    I had no idea the mayor was “that bad” until I started following council more closely. She’s now driven PTC from citizen-participation in the council to needing 3 members to add an agenda item for discussion, and I’m still baffled as to why it was necessary.

    To me, there is only one path forward: Council members must take a mulligan and rescind the requirement for “majority approval” of agenda items . At minimum, each member should have that ability, if not each citizen.

  5. DestadioWas very fair when I was mayor.

    Then for some reason he began to say strange things. It puzzled me.

    His vote here stunned me.

    How we handled agendas was very fair when I was mayor.

    I only ever removed one item from one councilmember because it violated procedure. He never brought it back.

    There is no excuse for this conduct.

    Learnard has always been a liberal power-hungry, I will say it, liar.

    I do not know Johnson so all I will say is that if if this is a taste of how she thinks, pity Peachtree City.

  6. Council person Johnson would do well to watch and learn before entering the fray. As the old adage goes “It is better to be silent and thought the fool rather than open ones mouth and remove all doubt”.

  7. This time, Mr. Brown, your statements are much better, as well as nicer, than mine. I don’t think I would publicly call for Mr. Destadio to step down at this time. Though I don’t personally know the gentleman; what Council approves today can be repealed tomorrow.