Olens sues Cumming and its mayor over open meetings violation

[private]

Attorney General Sam Olens has charged that the City of Cumming and its mayor, Ford Gravitt, violated the state’s open meetings law when they “forcibly removed” a citizen who was attempting to videotape a city council meeting.

Olens filed a complaint Tuesday in Forsyth County Superior Court asking that the city and Gravitt be fined $1,000 for the first violation of the open meetings law and $2,500 for each subsequent violation, in addition to legal costs.

The incident occurred April 17 at Cumming’s city hall and involved Nydia Tisdale, who initially tried to tape the council meeting with a video camera mounted on a tripod.

Gravitt told Tisdale to stop taping and Tisdale responded that she had the legal right to videotape the proceedings. Gravitt then ordered Police Chief Casey Tatum to remove Tisdale and the camera from the council chamber.

From the videotape of the proceedings, Olens said in his court filing, “It was plain that Ms. Tisdale was being forcibly removed from the auditorium. Indeed, the videotape reveals that she tried to get Officer Tatum to take his hands off her.”

Tisdale later returned to the council meeting and attempted to videotape it with her cellphone camera, but was told to stop that taping as well.

Gravitt and the city violated the open meetings law twice by forcibly removing Tisdale’s video camera from the meeting and then by ordering her to stop taping with her cellphone camera, Olens alleged.

Gravitt and city officials “were pointedly told about their legal obligations before violating them and proceeded anyway,” Olens argued in the complaint. “The actions of the defendants were neither legally nor factually performed in objective good faith.”

Olens’ complaint is the first action taken by the attorney general’s office to enforce the provisions of the revised state laws regulating open meetings and open records.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

[/private]

Tags: Cumming , Ford Gravitt , Nydia Tisdale , open meetings law , Sam Olens