Some on council claim they’re for transparency but vote against public’s right to know


The April 18 Peachtree City Council meeting was uncomfortably predictable. The near-empty agenda consisted of two presentations, approval of past meeting minutes, and six easy consent agenda items requiring no discussion and approval with a single vote. That’s it (see:

Look at all the Learnard Administration’s meeting agendas. So, how is all the business of the people of Peachtree City being conducted? Where is the creation of policy debates? Where is the discussion on vital government activities? It’s not being performed in public.

Anything but transparency

Council Members Frant Destadio and Laura Johnson began citing the excessive cost and staff time for placing agenda items on a city council meeting agenda as an excuse for drastically restricting items from being placed on a meeting agenda. I am not sure how any reasonable elected official could make such a claim, especially since their agendas are embarrassingly barebones, to begin with.

We definitely know that the people’s business is not being handled in the public forum from looking at the agendas. In over two decades of following local governments, I have never seen so little being done in public.

A concerted effort to cut you out

The citizens of Peachtree City have been force-marched through one council measure after another on restricting the public’s ability to speak in public meetings and have items of concern placed on a council meeting agenda.

The most recent draconian measure of a three-member majority was severe restrictions on city council members and the citizens being able to place items of concern on a council meeting agenda (see: The logic behind the restrictions was outlandish and illogical.

The real rationale for keeping their colleagues on the council and concerned citizens from placing issues of importance on an agenda is it prevents those council members working outside the will of the people from having to cast an official on-the-record vote against something the people want.

It’s a diabolical way for an untrustworthy elected official to lie and say he/she was never opposed to a measure while at the same time preventing it from ever appearing on an agenda for a vote.

Defiantly dismantling our speech

I watched as a millennial neighbor got up during the public comment section of the April 18 city council meeting, as if speaking on behalf of the mayor, stating that nothing was wrong and local citizens could redress their grievances in public government meetings. He claimed he was doing just that at the time.

I found the gentleman’s address disheartening as he quickly left the building. We have done a poor job of educating our younger generations on freedom, liberty, and government accountability. We just assumed they would “get it” and waved as they departed to universities where the faculty instructed them to disavow traditional standards and tolerate the loss of our God-given rights.

What the neighbor did not realize was that the last two city administrations limited the number of citizens who could speak in the “public comment” section of the meeting to just 10 citizens out of 39,000 residents.

Of those limited 10, they have to rush through what they are saying because they have a giant stopwatch projected on the screen counting down the scant three minutes they are allowed. The moment the giant stopwatch hits zero, a loud recorded voice goes off telling them they are finished and to go sit down.

I watched as mothers holding toddlers rushed to make their comments in time.

Does that tell the public the city council cares about what the constituents have to say? Their empty agendas mean the meetings only last about 45 minutes, yet they do not want to take a little more time listening to the constituents.

What the gentleman also did not know is that a citizen is absolutely not allowed to say anything about an item on that meeting’s agenda. That is not in the ordinance that I can see, but it is a bizarre policy that was created at some point in time, and probably never voted on. Likewise, once most of the agenda items are introduced by the mayor at the meeting, citizens cannot speak on the items then either. Why the gag rule?

Trying to keep colleagues off the meeting agendas

Council Members Clint Holland and Suzanne Brown (no relation) attempted during the April 18 meeting to place some items on a future meeting agenda using the harsh new format implemented by Mayor Kim Learnard, Destadio, and Johnson.

There were groans and head-shaking from the audience as Learnard, Destadio, and Johnson did everything possible to prevent their colleagues from being able to post an item on a future agenda.

Learnard and Johnson openly stated they would rather discuss their colleagues’ proposals in private behind closed doors even though both said their impetus for their ordinance changes on submitting agenda items at the last meeting was about promoting transparency. Their intentions are obvious.

Johnson claimed several times that her colleagues had waited too late to introduce the topics even though she openly approved of introducing agenda item proposals the same day as the meeting and doing so during the “council/staff topics” portion of the agenda at the April 4 council meeting. Johnson’s double-talk was called out and she eventually backed down.

Destadio took a different tack and claimed the proposed agenda items from his colleagues would be too costly and devour large amounts of staff time to present. That argument made absolutely no sense.

You can see how hard the three-member majority works to keep items they oppose from appearing on a meeting agenda.

Common sense agenda items the citizens support

So, what were the items Holland and Brown wanted placed on a future agenda?

Holland wanted to change the city’s horrible administrative variance ordinance which was being used to subvert state law and our local zoning ordinances. The dreadful ordinance was modified on then-Mayor Vanessa Fleisch’s last meeting in office, a nasty parting gift, allowing a 50 percent exemption to the zoning setback requirements (see:

Holland’s agenda item would consist of a red-lined copy of the ordinance with his proposed changes, costing nothing with little to no staff involvement as Destadio countered.

Brown wanted to place a resolution on a future agenda stating that the city council was not in favor of local taxpayer dollars being used to care for illegal immigrants should they be forwarded to our area. It is an important policy decision on a major issue that is crippling cities across the nation.

Counter to Destadio’s claims, the resolution would consist of the text created by Brown with little to no staff involvement.

You can make things change

Please remember that we have municipal elections coming up in November of 2025. We do not need the totalitarian tendencies of some of our elected officials. We do not put people in elected positions to shred our rights. And we expect our elected officials to be interested in our welfare, not their power.

[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. I have no idea what has happened to Destadio. He until recently seemed to be a reasonable member of our Council. Laura Johnson is just an embarrassment. I don’t know if she thinks in some kind of almost twisted way she is on friendly respectful terms with Kim, but there is no avenue there. Kim is not her friend. She is not in some kind of Survivor like alliance with Kim. Kim is playing her like a cheap violen.

    • I agree. I’ve lost respect for Mr Destadio for his incoherent advocacy of the mayor’s ordinance.

      Arguing that staff is overwhelmed by proposals to study makes no sense: even if true, projects must be prioritized and can be deferred, or overtime (and consultants) can be authorized if waiting isn’t possible. Business management 101.

      It’s a problem, blakeh95, since members are now required to make back channel deals just to get something on an agenda. Council members’ proposals on our behalf can get spiked without public discussion or vote.

      Ms Johnson got played by the mayor to carry the water for her, saving the mayor from a public smackdown of her proposal, which the city attorney could not endorse. She needs to step quickly away from the mayor before she gets dragged into other chicanery.

      • I guess I don’t follow on how the proposal can get “spiked.” The council member would bring it up in Council/Staff topics, it wouldn’t get support, and then it would die. That’s all public.

        If you are saying that a councilmember would choose not to bring it to the public merely because they couldn’t get backchannel consensus, then that’s there own decision.

        With that said–I did lookup the PTC requirements on open meetings, and it does seem that the City Code prohibits 3+ members from meeting outside of an open meeting.

    • The Georgia Open Meetings Law only prohibits this when a quorum is present, and the City Code defines that quorum as 4 persons, not 3. However, I did look and the City Code further states that “[t]o avoid the appearance of impropriety, no more than two members of city council (including the mayor) shall meet to discuss any public matter, official business, or policy unless such meeting is held accordance with the Georgia Open Meetings Law” (PTC Code 2-31). Therefore, it does appear that the City has chosen to restrict itself more than State law does.

  2. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with starting the conversation “behind closed doors.” Politics is a messy business, and the art of sausage making can be quite ugly. With that said–the council members still have a means of getting the other ones on the record, so to speak: ask for consensus on putting something on a future agenda. If it fails to garner the necessary support, then that shows that the folks who don’t want it on the agenda don’t support it. Problem solved.

    I do think it is a bit odd that our council doesn’t operate in a very legislative capacity. I’ve never seen a council member introduce an ordinance in a manner that I would expect them to do so as our legislature. Instead, they always send it off to Staff. For example, it is my pet project, but I’ve talked a few times about lowering the speed limit on Robinson Road to accommodate the school zone for Booth. You would think that if a council member found it important, they would introduce the ordinance to accomplish that. But they would always send it off to Staff to “write the ordinance change.” Maybe that’s because they are scared about making changes to the City Code? I don’t know–seems to me like the job they signed up for.

    Lastly though, Steve’s personal attack on the person who disagreed with them seems unfounded. Steve has no way to know if that person was college-educated or if so, where they obtained that education. And the burden would be on him to show that the person’s opinion was indoctrinated into them.

  3. I am furious with Laura Johnson. She knows what the majority of PTC residents want and she is refusing to follow what the citizens want. The reason why she won the election is because of what she stated her positions to be beforehand. So far she has failed. This mayor is insufferable and it appears as if Johnson has fallen under her devious spell. Get a spine Laura…..

    • I agree with your assessment Charliegirl. I voted for Imker originally, as I certainly had my reservations about Laura. I just did not think she was savvy enough to deal with Kim. Unfortunately, it has turned out even worse than I imagined. I am not sure Kim’s devious spell is the culprit. Laura is just in way over her head. Kim knows a patsy when she sees one.

    • I agree with your assessment Charliegirl. I voted for Imker originally as I thought Laura was way too vague in her positions and simply not savvy enough to deal with Kim. Unfortunately, it has turned out even worse than I thought. Poor Laura is coming across as someone who is desperately wanting Kim to approve of her, and maybe even be a friend. Kim knows a patsy when she sees one.