By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Cumming responds to complaint
Seeks guidance from attorney general
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News

The city of Cumming has responded to a complaint with a question.

In response to a complaint filed by a Roswell woman, City Attorney Dana Miles has asked the attorney general what the effect was of the General Assembly’s recent revisions to the state’s open meetings law.

The changes were signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on April 17, hours before the city council’s monthly meeting.

It was during that meeting that Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt asked the police chief to escort Nydia Tisdale and her video camera, out of the meeting.

The previous version of the law stated that “visual, sound, and visual and sound” recordings are allowed during open meetings. The new version simply states that “visual and sound recording” is allowed.

In a letter dated Thursday, Miles asks Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter for the office’s opinion on whether the new rule allows for only visual and only sound or if it allows for both visual and sound.

“It is only unfortunate that this issue arose on the same day that Governor Deal signed the law, and the Attorney General's official opinion could not be secured earlier,” Miles wrote in the response.

“It would seem particularly onerous if not draconian to engage in discretionary enforcement activities when guidance from the attorney general is being sincerely sought on this matter.”

Reached Friday, Tisdale called the city’s response incredulous.

“They’re splitting hairs,” she said. “He seems to want to interpret it as visual or sound, but not both.”

Ritter would confirm only that he had received the city’s letter and planned to respond.

Until the city receives a response from the state, Miles wrote in the letter, “joint visual and sound recordings” will be allowed at public meeting in city hall.

However, those seeking to take video will be given a specific location from which to record, addressing Gravitt’s previous concern that tripods can create a safety issue.

“This location will provide an excellent place for people to view the meeting as it progresses, but yet is out of the way of the public which attends the meeting so as to prevent any ingress/egress, fire safety or other safety concerns,” according to the response.

“Should you or anyone else with the office of the Attorney General wish to see the recording area, we would be honored to host you.”

Tisdale said that would be fine, however for those who want to take video without using a tripod, it’s limiting.

“If someone weren’t carrying a tripod and they just had a camera in their hand, I think the law allows you to sit anywhere the public is allowed to sit and not be relegated to a certain corner where maybe you might not get a very good angle,” she said.

“You don’t want to block traffic, of course … but if you don’t have a tripod, I would think you could sit anywhere in the auditorium with a camera.”

In addition to her initial complaint, Tisdale said she has sent the attorney general’s office a list of other alleged violations that occurred at the city council meeting.

They include, among others, that the front door to city hall was locked and officials held an unannounced meeting after an executive session.

Miles and Gravitt could not be reached for comment Friday.

Asked if she might pursue legal action on the matter, Tisdale said she would explore her options.

“I have not consulted legal counsel yet,” she said. “I’m waiting until the attorney general makes his ruling.”