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Lawsuit in waiting pattern
Mayor asks judge to 'compel mediation'
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Forsyth County News

It has become a waiting game for both sides in an ongoing open meetings dispute.

Attorneys representing Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and State Attorney General Sam Olens confirmed that they met the Aug. 30 deadline for filing submitted supplemental briefs in the matter with Senior Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson.

Both sides now await further direction from the judge, who has not established a specific time frame for resolving the case.

Adamson could issue a written decision or request further discussion in an additional hearing.

On July 25, the judge heard oral arguments in the case, in which Olens contends Gravitt violated the state’s open meeting laws on April 17, 2012.

During a meeting of Cumming City Council that night, Gravitt asked that the camera of Roswell resident Nydia Tisdale be removed from council chambers as she was trying to record it for use on a website.

Tisdale, in a separate federal suit that was filed after Olens’, has maintained that she was forcibly removed on Gravitt’s orders by Cumming Police Chief Casey Tatum and, after returning to the meeting, was asked by another Cumming police officer to stop recording on her still camera.

Olens has said Gravitt’s action was a violation of the amended Georgia Open Meetings Act, which ironically had been signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal earlier that same day.

After the July 25 hearing, Adamson instructed both parties to work together to try to come to a resolution.

When they were unable to do so, he then instructed them to submit supplemental briefs by Aug. 30.

In those briefs, Kevin Tallant, an attorney representing Gravitt, said the defense has asked Adamson to “compel mediation” between the parties or to dismiss the case, which Tallant argued for during the July hearing.

Tallant said Gravitt, when acting in his capacity as mayor, has “sovereign immunity” from lawsuits under the Georgia Constitution, so the case should be dropped.

Attorneys representing Olens filed briefs in support of their original argument, which called for summary judgment.

Kelly Campanella, for the prosecution, argued during the hearing that Gravitt’s actions were a clear violation of the open meetings act and that sovereign immunity doesn’t apply.