Cumming must pay blogger $200,000 for blocking filming of council

Cumming must pay blogger $200,000 for blocking filming of council

The website of a citizen journalist reported Tuesday she has won a $200,000 settlement of her federal lawsuit bought because she claimed she was illegally ejected from a Cumming City Council meeting she was filming.

Nydia Tisdale’s website, aboutforsyth.com, reported the lawsuit’s settlement calls for a $200,000 payment and ensures city policies allow public filming of meetings.

Tisdale brought the federal lawsuit after Mayor H. Ford Gravitt blocked her from filming a meeting involving the discussion of an intergovernmental agreement between Forsyth County and the city of Cumming involving water service on April 17, 2012.

Tisdale protested that Georgia law permitted her to film the meeting but Gravitt ordered police to stop her and had her “tossed out” of the meeting for bringing a camera, Tisdale reported.

“This settlement sends a powerful message that government officials cannot shroud their operations in secrecy by barring truth-telling video,” said Gerry Weber, lawyer for Tisdale, on aboutforsyth.com. “But more, the lawsuit has unveiled decades-old practices of an entrenched City government that has left its citizens in the dark. The Mayor’s actions were a blatant violation of citizens’ constitutional rights to record public meetings.”

State Attorney General Sam Olens took up Tisdale’s cause and Gravitt and the city were fined $12,000 last August for violating the state open meeting act. Shortly after the fine the county GOP had Tisdale evicted from one of its gathering on private party after state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens questioned her filming.

That eviction was taken a bit personally by Olens who was also speaking at the gathering.

“Let me be possibly politically incorrect here a second,” Olens told the crowd. “If we stand for anything as a party, what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera, filming us? What are we saying here that shouldn’t be on film? What message are we sending? That because it’s private property, they shouldn’t be filming? What is the harm?

“Who’s the winner in the long run? Not a good move,” the attorney general finished.

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