Now city staff impose their own censorship over what council members can add to council agendas


The attempts to censor sitting Council Members Suzanne Brown and Clint Holland and their agenda items went even further as top city staff imposed bizarre interpretations of the revised ordinance 1218 (C), none of which are actually in the ordinance. What the heck?

You will recall that Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard pushed to create serious constraints on the ability of anyone she opposes to place items on a council meeting agenda. Her plan had several significant flaws that were called out in a previous column (see:

Council Member Laura Johnson came to Learnard’s rescue, scrubbing some of the proposed changes to the mayor’s proposal on ordinance 1218 (C), creating her own version of chaos and confusion, calling it a “compromise.”

Learnard referred to Johnson’s revised proposal as “masterful.” Well, it was anything but masterful. Johnson’s defense of her actions for changing the ordinance was a confusing spectacle with Johnson offering many conflicting statements (see:

Now, the city staff and council members are debating how the poorly written censorship rule in ordinance form actually works. Even the city attorney has offered two different opinions.

More provocation?

The City Manager Justin Strickland and City Clerk Yasmin Julio were literally making up procedures and agenda subsections out of thin air, none of which were present in Johnson’s version of the ordinance 1218 (C) changes.

The two staff members were issuing orders to Brown and Holland on how to present their agenda items, citing a “procedure” that did not exist. It’s not a stretch to wonder if they were acting at the behest of Learnard who originally proposed the censorship measure.

I asked Johnson about the damaging outcome of her ordinance change following the May 2 city council meeting in an email interview, and she appears to dodge those questions (read the interview here:

Council Member Brown was furious. In a pointed email to Strickland, Brown said, “Obviously, the Ordinance 1218 Agenda Item from Mayor Learnard at the April 4 meeting created a great deal of confusion and multiple contradictory statements concerning Council Member Johnson’s compromise that was adopted.”

Referring to the imposition of the sudden, punitive procedures created by Strickland and Julio, never approved by the city council, Brown challenged, “I need you to cite the specific language that you call ‘procedure’ [in ordinance 1218 (C)] that: 1. Demands that the [Brown’s] item is a ‘discussion item,’ 2. That I cannot provide the name and description of my own agenda item that was approved using the opaque language approved on April 4, and 3. Why am I not able to determine the meeting date for my own agenda item (over the city’s history, many items have been postponed to a later meeting date, this is nothing new in terms of making such a request.)”

Riled at the latest attempt at censorship, Brown asserted, “Following Ordinance 1218, I submitted a request for an agenda item for a Resolution on a specific topic for a future council meeting and received the required approval.” She continued, “Staff determining how my agenda item will be processed based on council comments veering in multiple directions is nowhere to be found in Ordinance 1218. I made the request, I cited the agenda item requested, and it was approved.”

“Council member Holland and I voted against this confusing and tangled ordinance change, and it now appears that you are making it even more confusing,” said Brown. “Justin, the only time you are mentioned in the ordinance itself, is with accepting agenda items from city staff. Your statement that we need to have another approval following a previous approval during Council Staff Topics makes no sense,” Brown said.

Council Member Brown is entirely correct.

We are not fools

Certainly, we all know why politicians employ such extreme measures to avoid freedom of speech and expression, eradicating opposition. Government deceit is nothing new. The methodology for citizens and council members to place an item of concern on a council meeting agenda in Peachtree City has worked for five decades, and all of a sudden, it’s totally unmanageable. Seriously?

What the mayor and Johnson are doing is similar to when Nancy Pelosi publicly stated to the American public, “We will have to pass the [ObamaCare] bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

If it looks like dishonesty and acts like dishonesty, it must be dishonesty.

Learnard readily admits in public, like Pelosi, that she prefers to do the business of the people in the back channels and have agenda item discussions with her colleagues outside the public forum.

Learnard admitted in a council meeting to polling all the council members behind the scenes on her own agenda item saying, “I made sure to discuss this [ordinance 1218 (C) change] item with each and every one of us before I would even consider putting it on a council meeting agenda.” Please tell me how that does not violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

In my interview with Johnson, I asked why she did not support a resolution on the record stating that Peachtree City tax dollars would not be used to house or maintain illegal immigrants. She cited “the time that our assistant police chief devoted to sitting down with us [council members] to discuss this matter and followed his recommendation.”

Why did Johnson think the taxpaying citizens would not want to be privy to hearing the details of those private sit-down discussions concerning an urgent national issue and our tax dollars? Why wasn’t his full recommendation presented in the city council meeting? Is Johnson in favor of using our tax dollars to provide upkeep for illegal immigrants?

The 1218 ordinance is a disaster, so what now?

At the May 2, 2024, city council meeting, the changes made to ordinance 1218 (C) imploded on city staff and the council members. Brown’s points were all valid, and the new ordinance lacks clarity and real procedural structure. However, that should not be an invitation for city staff to make stuff up and promote censorship.

The poor city attorney has been trying to pick up the pieces.

Originally, it was stipulated that agenda items could only be added or denied by a majority “consensus,” not a formal vote. On May 2, it was concluded that agenda items could only be added by a “motion, second, and majority vote,” not a consensus. The flip-flop has become the official footwear of the city council. The rules keep changing to hold city council members back and prevent new agenda items.

The ordinance revision’s author, Johnson, originally stated she did not support motions being made for the placement of an agenda item during the Council/Staff Topic portion of the meeting. She now supports what she formerly opposed. You cannot make this stuff up.

Obviously, it would be better for Learnard and Johnson to stop censoring their council colleagues and the citizens who would like to place an item on the council’s scant agendas. Their pride prevents them from returning to the old ordinance that no one complained about until Laura Johnson was elected.

In the email interview, Johnson doubled down on supporting her controversial and poorly written ordinance revision even though it has huge holes in how to process adding agenda items.

No backbone

In one of the email interview questions, I asked Johnson for her rationale on why she voted against returning to having an invocation before the city council meetings. Johnson replied, “I did not vote against having an invocation before city council meetings; the motion was whether or not to put it on the agenda.” Ouch! Seriously?

This double-speak would be humorous if we did not support her with our tax dollars. Unmistakably, in that answer, Johnson gave the readers her rationale for preventing items of concern from being placed on an agenda. She and Learnard will use the psychological crutch to claim they never voted against anything the people wanted, they just voted never to allow it on an agenda to be voted on.

We have seen Learnard demonstrate the same lack of character, saying her critics are spouting “misinformation” and claiming official government actions never happened (see: The mayor’s propaganda video was a real eye-opener for many viewers. Regardless of what Learnard claims, the government’s actions are documented on the official record.

I dare say that most of us could respect someone with a different point of view that they could defend. However, this weaseling out of allowing any person with an opposing view to ever present a position in the public forum is sheer cowardice.

Kudos to Council Member Suzanne Brown for standing up to the dishonesty.

Wake up people. If you don’t fight the tyranny, you get even more tyranny.

[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. One thing is clear after reading Laura’s responses to Steve on this issue, if Karine-Jean Pierre ever steps down as the Biden spokesperson, Laura is a definite candidate to replace.

  2. Mayor Learnard and Ms Johnson: It’s time you admit you acted without facts or thinking this through.

    We have yet to see any evidence on the amount of wasted employee time to be saved, or the alternatives you weighed, that supports the new policy. The verbal gymnastics you’ve used to justify it deceives only those who aren’t paying attention.

    Put the original, time-tested process for raising agenda items in front of council. Claim your mulligan. We’ll give you the do-over.

    I’d even help you by putting an agenda item up for a council vote to reverse this mess, if only citizens hadn’t been cut out by your series of changes. Thank goodness for Ms Brown.

    • I think it all originated with a staff suggestion developed into a recommendation for the Council. Those on the Council, March 16, 2023, can deny or verify that. The relatively new City staff had begun efforts to scrub ordinances and were encouraged to look at best practices (among cities) and benchmark their efforts. I further think that an attempt to support City staff’s (personal or professional) recommendation to delete the ability to place an “Item” on the Council Meeting agendas was poorly handled and became personal. Finally, in one of the most curious ways this “stuff” passed the Council’s approval.