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Law prods public officials toward transparency

Posted: April 22nd, 2012, 8:30 pm
by Nydia Tisdale
Law prods public officials toward transparency

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Ty Tagami
April 22, 2012

Cheryl Miller has been hammering at a proverbial stone wall that she sees standing between her and the local school district.

Miller is among parents in DeKalb County who’ve been digging for information about a decision they find repugnant: allowing cell towers to be erected at several schools. They have been unable to get all they want despite using Georgia’s open records and open meetings law, but on Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed an overhaul into effect that might help them.

~ ~ ~

Nydia Tisdale, a Roswell resident who has tangled with officials in Cumming and Forsyth County, agrees. “I think it puts it into layman’s terms and less legalese, so it’s more understandable,” she said. “You have a right to read what your government officials are reading and writing, and you have a right to record their activity.”

Even so, officials still have their own interpretations, and Tisdale may be one of the first to test the new law. She has already used it to file a complaint with the attorney general.

On Tuesday, hours after Deal signed the law into effect, Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt stopped Tisdale from recording a City Council meeting. A video she posted on YouTube captured the act. “Remove the camera,” Gravitt told the police chief. “We don’t allow filming inside the City Hall unless it’s for specific reasons.”

The law said before, and still does, that visual and sound recording during open meetings “shall be permitted.”

Gravitt said afterward that he thought Tisdale’s camera and tripod were “disruptive” and that it would be a public safety issue if everyone brought such equipment into a crowded meeting.

“We’re just going to have to live with it,” he said of the law. “We’ll just wait and try to change some of it next year.”


Open records bill signing misses key ingredient

Posted: April 22nd, 2012, 10:50 pm
by Nydia Tisdale
Open records bill signing misses key ingredient

ATLAW Daily Report
By Kathleen Baydala Joyner
April 17, 2012

The bill overhauling the state’s open government laws ran into a final snag on Tuesday—but it had nothing to do with the competing interests of the news media and local governments who fought over the measure.

Gov. Nathan Deal was set to sign the bill today at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon, flanked by the two men who spearheaded the legislation, state Attorney General Sam Olens and Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla. But no one remembered to bring a copy of the bill.

Deal, Olens and Powell pretended to sign the bill for the cameras (and he performed the deed later in the day, according to a release from his office.)


Cumming mayor needs briefing on Georgia's sunshine laws

Posted: April 23rd, 2012, 9:10 am
by Nydia Tisdale
Cumming mayor needs briefing on Georgia's sunshine laws

Creative Loafing Atlanta
By Thomas Wheatley
April 20, 2012

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is investigating whether Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt violated the state's sunshine laws when he told citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale she was not allowed to videotape a recent public meeting.


Mayor Gravitt overstepped bounds of authority, civility

Posted: April 23rd, 2012, 6:30 pm
by Nydia Tisdale
Mayor Gravitt overstepped bounds of authority, civility

Forsyth Herald
By Hatcher Hurd
April 23, 2012

Mayor H. Ford Gravitt has sat on the Cumming City Council some 45 years, more than 40 of those years as mayor. That in itself is quite an endorsement from the residents of Cumming. He did not remain in office that long without acquiring considerable political acumen along with all that experience.

So it came as quite a surprise when he opened a city council meeting last week by calling for the removal of longtime political gadfly Nydia Tisdale's video camera from council chambers.

Gravitt gave no explanation other than that Cumming did not allow cameras to film in chambers. He then ordered the chief of police to remove the offending video camera over the understandable objections of Tisdale.

There is a rather glaring problem with that action. It directly contravenes the state of Georgia's Sunshine Laws which state in clear unequivocal language that open government meetings will indeed allow filming of the proceedings.

Now, the mayor may be used to having his own way on council after serving so long in office, but that does not mean he has been conferred some extralegal powers to order Tisdale or her camera out of a public meeting.

It was not a propitious time for Gravitt to call attention to the Sunshine Laws in such dramatic fashion since that very day Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill that strengthened those same Sunshine Laws that the mayor flouted.

Every daily news organ in Georgia had that story. Now the next day they had the exclamation point of the need for such laws with the follow-up story of the mayor who threw the citizen with the camera out of City Hall.

And since it was such an unrepentant flouting of state and constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, it is one of serious concern to the media that one who has served so long in public office would take a step we find offensive.

It did not add to the dignity of the proceedings that not one council member raised an objection to this arbitrary action – a matter of housekeeping, the mayor called it.

Nor did the police chief hesitate to carry out the unlawful order. Finally, despite being called upon by the shocked Ms. Tisdale, the city attorney remained mute. Even if the mayor claims ignorance of the law, they should have known better and protected the honor of the mayor and the city.

Whom do they serve, the city or the mayor? And is the Cumming City Council merely the mayor's rubber stamp? These are the questions that are raised when the public's rights are trampled in open session.

Nydia Tisdale

Posted: April 26th, 2012, 9:30 am
by Nydia Tisdale
Nydia Tisdale

The Rob and Dave Show
640 WGST The Talk of Atlanta Georgia
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 8:05 a.m.

Rob Johnson
David Merlino

Mayor orders camera off at council meeting

Posted: April 26th, 2012, 10:00 am
by Nydia Tisdale
Mayor orders camera off at council meeting

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 25, 2012

"We don’t allow filming inside of the City Hall unless there is a specific reason."

H. Ford Gravitt on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 in a meeting
H. Ford Gravitt is the mayor of Cumming, Ga., located in Forsyth County.

The Truth-O-Meter Says: FALSE

Meetings of the Cumming City Council rarely make the evening news, but that changed last week with video of a woman being tossed out of the public gathering.

The woman, Nydia Tisdale, was attempting to film the council’s meeting April 17, but she was told that was not going to happen.


Gravitt Has Until Friday to Answer Attorney General

Posted: April 26th, 2012, 11:30 am
by Nydia Tisdale
Gravitt Has Until Friday to Answer Attorney General Over Alleged Violations
By Liz Kennedy
April 26, 2012

It's been nearly a week since a firestorm ignited between the mayor of Cumming and the actions of a Roswell resident.


City of Cumming response to Open Meetings Act complaint

Posted: April 27th, 2012, 6:00 pm
by Nydia Tisdale

Letter to AG - Dana Miles response

Posted: April 27th, 2012, 11:20 pm
by David Milum
The Perpetrator of Insulting Ignorance (Photo: Nydia Tisdale)

Forsyth County Citizen’s Oversight Committee
4300 Jot Em Down Road
Cumming, Ga. 30028
David Milum

April 27, 2012

Sam Olens, Georgia Attorney General
Stefan Ritter, Senior Assistant Attorney General
Office of the Georgia Attorney General
40 Capitol Square, SW
Atlanta, Ga. 30334

cc: Doug Derrer, Forsyth County Manager
110 East Main Street, Suite 210
Cumming, Ga. 30040

cc: Ken Jarrard, Forsyth County Attorney
c/o Jarrard & Davis, LLP
105 Pilgrim Village Drive, Suite 200
Cumming, Ga. 30040

cc: Forsyth County Board of Commissioners
110 East Main Street, Suite 210
Cumming, Ga. 30040


Ref: City of Cumming Response to Open Meetings Violation Complaint

Complainant: Nydia Tisdale
Complaint Against: City of Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt violating Georgia Newest Revised Open Meetings Law O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1.

Dear Sirs,

First let me state that there is not another man in our State that has more respect for the law than me. Having said that, I can certainly appreciate your sometimes difficult position in playing the role of peace-makers between the Citizens of Georgia and those who serve in government — some honorably, some not.

Unfortunately, there are some who balk or even intentionally block access to those records and meetings that most assuredly belong to the Taxpayers who provided the funds to compile them or, in this particular case, disallow lawful filming of a public meeting.

City of Cumming attorney Dana Miles is not known here in Forsyth County as being the most brilliant bulb in the pack, to put it mildly. He serves with many hats within city and county government while using these differing paid positions to unethically place himself in continuing conflicted controversy.

Many have witnessed the most asinine and unethical acts by this questionable character that would defy logical thinking. Citizens have come to the conclusion that Dana Miles cannot be trusted. Many of us often wonder how it came to pass that Forsyth County became the dumping ground for criminal types that happen to have Bar Licenses here.

With that sincere preface I, as a Forsyth County Citizen, have the humble duty to apologize to you two gentlemen for being subjected to the degrading antics of Dana Miles. How insulting of him to speak down to the Office of Attorney General with the silliest and utterly degenerate response I have ever read. This childishly written response reeks of Bill Clinton’s definition of what the definition of what “is” is. I cringe at the thought of how insulted you were to be placed in the awkward position to have to respond to such foolishness spewed towards you by Dana Miles representing the City of Cumming.

This Dana Miles arrogance underhandedly says to all that read it I assume: “If you think you’re going to dictate public meetings policy to the City of Cumming, Ga., then you’ve got another thing coming.” I literally grate my teeth considering how demeaning Dana Miles’ letter is to you.

Please pardon me if I seem overly incensed by the Miles’ letter. That would be clearly explained because I am. Again, I am so sorry for the degradation directed towards your office. I respectfully view both you gentlemen as honorable and dedicated public figures so I beg of you to not judge those of us in Forsyth County that do not support such undignified arrogance towards the Law of this State and you as is demonstrated by the City of Cumming’s attorney Dana Miles.

David Milum, Forsyth County Resident
Forsyth County Citizen’s Oversight Committee


Embarrassment to this community and state

Posted: April 28th, 2012, 12:54 am
by David Milum
Dana Miles you Sir are an insulting idiot. You are an embarrassment to this community and now you have thoroughly embarrassed us at the State capitol as well.

Sunlight Weekly Roundup

Posted: April 28th, 2012, 2:30 pm
by Nydia Tisdale
Sunlight Weekly Roundup: Citizen journalist removed from public meeting

Sunlight Foundation
By Bridget Todd
April 27, 2012, 3:16 p.m.

In Georgia, Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt removed citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale from a recent public meeting. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is investigating whether Gravitt violated the state's sunshine laws. In an interview, Gravitt claimed that he was confused about the state’s Open Records Act. He thought it “only permitted people to take still pictures or video, and not both.” Check out the video of Tisdale being removed from the meeting (around the 2:20 mark) by clicking on the image below. As she is being removed, she maintains, "This is an open and public meeting; I have a right by Georgia law to record this meeting." Ironically, this all took place on the same day that Governor Nathan Deal signed a rewrite of the state's Open Records Act into law. For more information, see Thomas Wheatly’s post on Fresh Loaf.

The Sunlight Foundation

Posted: April 28th, 2012, 10:25 pm
by Nydia Tisdale
Aiming to Shed Light on Lawmakers

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A new nonprofit group called the Sunlight Foundation plans to spend big money this year to connect voters to a wide range of information about candidates for Congress via the Internet.

The District-based group, which opens its doors today, is underwritten by securities lawyer Michael R. Klein, whose clients have included the patriarch of Washington's famously feuding Haft family, the founder of Dart Drug Stores. Its executive director, Ellen S. Miller, is a longtime advocate for disclosure of campaign finances.

The organization takes its name from a quotation by former Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." By shedding light, or public attention, on candidates' big donors and lobbying contacts, the foundation said in its promotional material that it hopes to "uncover" congressional "boondoggles" and give citizens "the power to root out corruption in Congress."

"Sunlight must be relentless in its pursuit of corruption regardless of party," Klein said. "This is the only way we can bring about the accountability that citizens expect of their government and its leaders."


Some place worse: Cumming, Forsyth County, Georgia

Posted: April 28th, 2012, 10:45 pm
by Nydia Tisdale
Some place worse than here: Cumming, Forsyth County, Georgia

On the LAKE Front blog as news medium.

Located on the border of the Florida panhandle in Lowndes County, Georgia.

Mayor Gravitt of Cumming, GA — Oral History

Posted: April 29th, 2012, 9:50 am
by Nydia Tisdale

Produced by Forsyth Index
Uploaded by bhlogan25 on Jan 24, 2009

Elected mayor of Cumming, GA in 1970. Presently serving 40th year as mayor

Mentor James Otwell, Andean Chevrolet, Now run by son.
1964 elected City Council. 2 terms. Youngest City Council member in U.S.
Elected Mayor 1970
37 years as mayor (2007)

First elected Mayor in 1970
Served as Councilman 1969-1970
Native to Cumming Georgia
Born on the 2nd day of January, 1942

Forsyth High School Classmates
Lanier Bagwell
Douglas Sorrels, Clerk of Courts (retired)
Donald Major, City Administrator (retired)
Best of friends. Dated same girls.

Mayor stands by camera removal

Posted: April 29th, 2012, 10:00 am
by Nydia Tisdale
Mayor stands by camera removal
April 20, 2012

CUMMING - Calling it somewhat of a gray area, Cumming's Mayor is not backing down from his decision to have a woman video taping Tuesday's council meeting removed.

Mayor Ford Gravitt told Fox Five it had the potential to be disruptive to the meeting.

"I think if it's a safety issue, and you have people running over you maybe in a case of emergency, I think you can use some common sense," Gravitt said.

The Georgia Attorney General's Office is now looking into the matter. Georgia's Open Meetings Act states that visual and sound recording during open meetings are permitted.

"Visual and sound equipment, it may be permitted. Well, you know, it's a little gray area there. I see it," Gravitt said.

The camera-wielding woman, Nydia Tisdale, told Fox Five she plans to return with her camera.