‘None of their business’ | Councilwoman responds to calls for resignation
Public records show Gretchen Caola and her husband asked city workers for speed bumps, pathway removal
UPDATE 8/30/2022: Councilwoman Gretchen Caola stepped down less than a week after our CBS46 Investigation into her alleged abuse of power. She and her husband Joe also sold her Peachtree City home. See original story below.
ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A Peachtree City councilwoman is under allegations of abusing her power and trying to use her position for personal benefit.
Public records reveal Councilwoman Gretchen Caola and her husband, Joe, have asked city workers to add speed bumps to the paths near their home, and tried to have a popular public path removed.
One day after CBS46 Investigates made a trip to Peachtree City, changes had begun.
In Peachtree City, cars are optional. The majority of the community gets around on golf carts, using the city’s pathway system. That especially applies to those who live near Peachtree Lake, like Joanne Boland.
“The pathway system in Peachtree City is what it’s all about,” Boland said. “That’s why people move here. It’s what’s on our website. It’s why we waited two years to find a house in this subdivision.”
Boland lives on Edgewater Way, where a public path leads from her street to a larger path around the lake. That path is directly next to Caola’s house.
“The path has been here 42 years,” Boland said. “They [Gretchen and Joe Caola] moved in a few years ago.”
That’s why Boland was angry when she found out Gretchen and Joe Caola wanted to get rid of the public path next to their home. According to public records, Joe Caola sent an email to the city attorney in early July, complaining about the way people were using the path involving boats, cars and construction vehicles.
Joe Caola even shared his plans to ask the city “to have it removed.”
“Property rights issues can get very sticky,” he wrote, and “I have been trying to present this without too much being made public.”
But the public did find out and several residents were not pleased.
“We pay tax dollars to support these paths and so when someone tries to steal from me and my neighbors, I get very defensive of that,” said Eric Irvin, who lives nearby.
“Transparency from our elected officials is key and important,” said Tammy Inman, who also lives nearby. “And to have someone in [office] for such a short amount of time to already be bending rules and utilizing them for her own benefit is sad.”
Signs that say ‘Save Our Paths’ began sprouting throughout the neighborhood.
On July 14, Gretchen Caola published an editorial and said she would “abstain” from any “planning or decisions” related to the path in question. A day later, Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard sent a letter to residents, saying the path in question would “continue to be a part of the city’s path system.”
“The City Council is not interested in abandoning any portion of the path system,” Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard said during a recent council meeting.
But the problems didn’t end there.
CBS46 Investigates obtained a text message exchange between the councilwoman and a city worker in which she asked about “location preference” for “speed bumps behind/ beside” her home to slow traffic.
A few weeks later, those speed bumps were installed, at taxpayer expense. Gretchen Caola then texted again, this time with a picture and more questions: “Do we have to leave such a large gap? Can there be no gap? This doesn’t slow bikers or skateboarding.”
“It just feels like it was done for Councilmember Gretchen’s benefit,” Inman said. “And it was not the city safety put in mind.”
“It has me questioning her ethics,” another neighbor Paula, said.
Instead of sporting a ‘Save Our Paths’ sign on her golf cart, Paula who said she voted for Councilwoman Caola, made some changes to an old campaign yard sign. Her sign now reads ‘Recall Gretchen. Corruption in Peachtree City Council.’
“Will we be able to trust her to continue to serve on city council? I don’t think it does,” Paula added.
Now, Paula and other neighbors are calling for Caola to resign. An online petition has also been created.
CBS46 Investigates asked Caola about that after the councilwoman approached the team as they were flying a drone above the public path near Caola’s home.
“A lot of your neighbors want to hear if you’re going to resign, if you’re going to step down?” Caola was asked.
“That’s none of their business,” the councilwoman replied.
On August 5, Interim City Manager Bernard McMullen, stated that “after careful review and consideration of visibility, grade, high traffic areas, and accessibility,” 18 of the 26 newly added speed bumps would be removed.
CBS Investigates also tried to ask the councilwoman about that.
The Caola’s house has been listed for sale and is “under contract,” according to Zillow.
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