Mediation fails in Cumming open meetings case
11:07 am, November 19th, 2013
Court-ordered mediation in an Open Meetings Act lawsuit filed by the state attorney general against the mayor of Cumming has failed, according to two of the parties involved.
The lawsuit was the first under the state’s new Open Meetings and Open Records acts, which were overhauled by the state Legislature in 2012.
A senior assistant attorney general met Friday at JAMS with Mayor Ford Gravitt and his lawyers, as well as blogger Nydia Tisdale, who claimed she was illegally kept from video recording a City Council meeting in April 2012, and her attorneys. The mediator was retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, according to Tisdale.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Sam Olens confirmed that the mediation did not result in a settlement but declined further comment, citing a confidentially agreement.
Cumming city attorney Dana Miles could not be reached immediately for comment.
The Open Meetings Act, which went into effect on April 17, 2012, expressly allows the public to make visual and sound recordings of public meetings and authorizes the attorney general to bring civil suits against violators.
The AG’s complaint, filed June 5, 2012, in Forsyth County Superior Court, states that Gravitt ordered Tisdale to stop recording the council’s meeting held the same day the Open Meetings law went into effect. The suit says Gravitt also ordered the police chief to remove Tisdale’s camera from the meeting.
The complaint asks the court to impose the maximum penalties allowed under the new law, which would be $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation from the April 17 meeting.
Mediation was ordered by Forsyth Senior Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson.
Tisdale, who is represented by constitutional law attorney Gerry Weber and Hollie Manheimer of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, filed a separate suit in federal court in June 12, 2012. That suit is before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story, and the deadline for filing motions is Dec. 2.