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Federal lawsuit against Cumming settled for $200K
Stemmed from April 2012 incident at council meeting
city

CUMMING — A $200,000 settlement has been reached in a Roswell woman’s federal lawsuit against the city of Cumming over reported free speech and search and seizure violations.

Nydia Tisdale confirmed Tuesday that she had received the payment.

The lawsuit stemmed from an April 2012 incident in which Tisdale was directed by Mayor H. Ford Gravitt to stop filming during a Cumming City Council meeting and asked to leave. She later returned and continued filming with a different device.

The same day as the incident, Georgia’s revised Open Meetings Act had gone into effect.

Crystal Ledford, public information assistant with the city, said that the city’s liability insurance provider, Public Risk Underwriters, had settled with Tisdale.

She added that no official action had been taken by the city council or administration.

The council was scheduled to meet Tuesday night.

The settlement, a copy of which was provided to the Forsyth County News by Tisdale’s attorney, Gerry Weber, established a March 13 deadline to pay Tisdale “inclusive of all penalties, damages, attorney’s fees and expenses.”

As part of the arrangement, Tisdale agreed to dismiss the settlement with prejudice upon payment. The parties also acknowledged that the terms of the agreement should not be construed as an admission of liability or responsibility by the defendants.

In addition, the city agreed to adopt a new policy on filming council meetings, which states that handheld recording devices can be used from anywhere in the meeting as long as they are not disruptive. And there will be a designated area during meetings for tripods, which cannot be set up in aisles.

Last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Story ruled that Gravitt, Cumming Police Chief Casey Tatum and Deputy Chief Walter Cook could not be held personally liable for actions taken against Tisdale at the April 2012 meeting.

But the role of the city government as a whole in the case, which fostered the involvement of the state attorney general in a separate legal action against the city, could be decided at trial.

In August 2012, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens filed a complaint against Gravitt and the city in the county’s Superior Court regarding the same incident, claiming both entities violated the Georgia Open Meetings Act when they:

* “Wrongfully prevented [Tisdale] from video recording a meeting at the start of the meeting.”

* “Wrongfully removed [Tisdale] from the meeting when she had done nothing wrong.”

* “Wrongfully prevented [Tisdale] from later videotaping the meeting, without sound, using a different camera.”

In that case, Senior Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson ordered the mayor and city to pay $12,000 in penalties plus attorney fees. The city council voted to appeal the decision.

That matter has not been resolved.