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Cumming makes appeal of open meetings decision official

Will challenge ruling in favor of state attorney general

POSTED: September 5, 2014 12:04 a.m.
FCN file photo/

The Cumming City Council voted 5-0 on Wednesday to approve appealing a recent decision in an open meetings dispute with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

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CUMMING — The Cumming City Council voted 5-0 on Wednesday to approve appealing a recent decision in an open meetings dispute with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

In the ruling, which was filed in late August, Senior Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson granted a request from Olens’ camp for summary judgment in the case. He also ordered the city and Mayor H. Ford Gravitt to pay $12,000 in penalties plus attorney fees.

The case stemmed from an April 2012 incident in which Roswell resident Nydia Tisdale was asked by Gravitt to stop filming during a council meeting.

Adamson’s ruling for summary judgment came more than a year after a July 2013 hearing on the matter, in which attorneys for the city asked that the case be dismissed, contending that Gravitt had sovereign immunity as an elected official.

During a called meeting Wednesday afternoon, attorney Kevin Tallant recommended pursuing the appeal.

“There are … three errors we believe that are in the order that was made,” Tallant told the councilmen after they reconvened the public meeting following a 20-minute executive session.

“The first is that the law as written, the open meetings act law, does not consider the city of Cumming as an entity to be subject to fines,” Tallant said. “It only allows for fines to be levied against people.”

The second and third points Tallant addressed went back to the sovereign immunity issue, which he contends allow the mayor and city “to be free from suit except in very limited circumstances.”

“And that is a constitutional doctrine, which of course then trumps the law written by the legislature,” he said. “Official immunity, again, says that the mayor can only be subject to suit in very limited circumstances and this open meetings act violation is not one of those.”

A point of fact Tallant addressed to council relates to a claim by Tisdale that she was forcibly removed from the April 2012 meeting.

“I believe it actually says in here [in Adamson’s order] that [Gravitt] instructed that she be removed from the meeting and that is simply not the case,” Tallant said. “… In fact, we presented evidence to the judge wherein Ms. Tisdale admitted to a third party that she was not thrown out of the meeting, that only she was not allowed to film.”

After the meeting Wednesday, Tallant said a notice of appeal would remove jurisdiction of the case from Adamson and the matter will eventually go to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

“It will then be decided by a three-judge panel in Atlanta,” Tallant said. “My experience tells me that it’s going to be a decent amount of waiting.”

 

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6 comments
lkmonty: September 5, 2014 9:59 a.m.

What a waste of taxpayers money!!!!


verita51: September 5, 2014 11:39 a.m.

My question is why should the mayor or anyone else object to being filmed? They are public officials. It was a public meeting (these secret meetings should be outlawed) and I don't see that the mayor had any right at all to tell her to stop filming. Makes one wonder, "what is he trying to hide?"


macforprez: September 5, 2014 2:01 p.m.

This is not a waste of money, lkmonty. Tallant has a great argument. Sovereign immunity keeps the state government in check by preventing it from frivolously suing other state agencies, and county and local government officials every time the attorney general feels it is okay. Tallant is doing the right thing by appealing the decision. Someone has to keep the government in check. It might as well be us Cumming rebels.


macforprez: September 5, 2014 2:07 p.m.

verita 51: The more you read about this, the more you learn it was an obvious misunderstanding that Nydia Tisdale decided to make a big deal. Keep in mind, the law allowing cameras at public meetings was signed the same day as the incident involving the mayor and Ms. Tisdale.

Now, why fight so hard to defend himself?

Because Ms. Tisdale has a civil action pending seeking damages. The mayor could simply apologize and say he was mistaken/wrong for throwing her out but that would be an admission of guilt that could result in a windfall for the muckraking Tisdale, who needs the money to continue her work and put away for future libel/slander cases, which will likely come considering her predecessor owes a lot of money to litigants who sued him in court for wrongdoing.


mosesdds: September 6, 2014 7:03 p.m.

CUMMING MAKES APPEAL OF OPEN RECORDS DECISION OFFICIAL
(Will challenge ruling in favor of state attorney general)
By Crystal Ledford

OOPS! I believe that the article is about "Open Meetings". But I do believe that the City of Cumming would probably be in favor of appealing the Open Records Decision Law. Evidently a lot of readers also believe this, or it wouldn't have taken almost two days for the headline to be reported.


mosesdds: September 8, 2014 12:41 a.m.

Thanks for reading my comment and correcting the headline.



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