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Ga. AG Sam Olens v. Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt — Thursday

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Ga. AG Sam Olens v. Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt — Thursday

Postby Nydia Tisdale » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:00 pm


Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.

Forsyth County Courthouse
100 W. Courthouse Square
Cumming, GA 30040


Hearing is open to the public to attend.
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Forsyth County Courthouse parking information

Postby Nydia Tisdale » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:15 am

Parking Information

The parking deck in downtown Cumming has been demolished.

Jurors and others doing business at the Forsyth County Courthouse should use the parking lot at the southwest corner of Maple Street and Castleberry Road.

Parking areas for both the public and for county employees are designated at the County Administration Building.

Additional weekday parking from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the public and for county employees is available at Cumming Baptist Church (spaces marked with a red dot only).

View a map of parking locations.
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Oral arguments scheduled 9 a.m. Thursday, July 25

Postby Nydia Tisdale » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:00 pm

Court to hear arguments in Cumming open-meetings case

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
12:00 a.m. Sunday, July 21, 2013
By Pat Fox

The small city of Cumming is facing a double-fisted fight with Attorney General Sam Olens over an alleged open-meetings violation last year.

The attorney general has threatened to level “six-figure” attorneys’ fees against the city for tossing a woman from a city council meeting last year after she refused to turn off her video camera.

The case has garnered national attention on news websites, not only because it is the first test of Georgia’s new open-meetings law, but because of the videotape of the incident and subsequent antics of longtime Mayor Ford Gravitt.

Oral arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in Forsyth County Superior Court.

City officials did not respond to requests for comment but have argued the incident occurred the same day, April 17, 2012, that a revised open-meetings law was signed, and there may have been confusion as to what it allowed. Gravitt also told reporters he was concerned the camera and tripod, operated by Roswell activist Nydia Tisdale, may have presented a safety issue in the council chambers.

In filings with the court, the city is arguing it has sovereign immunity in the case, a legal protection meaning it is immune from civil and criminal prosecution.

But Olens said audio and video recording had been allowed under the old law and are still allowed under the revised law. What has changed, he said, is that governments found in violation can now be assessed attorneys’ fees as well as fines, and those can mount into six figures.

“We had numerous emails and conversations with the city attorney seeking to do what we regularly do, which is to resolve these disputes,” Olens said. “They could have signed a document approved at a meeting and been done with it.”

Instead, what the mayor did next made Cumming the only government in Georgia facing an attorney general’s lawsuit.

At a city council meeting a month after the incident, Gravitt received a phone call while presiding. He told the audience it was the “attorney general wanting to know if we were having an illegal meeting.”

It wasn’t.

“That to me is not taking Georgia law seriously,” Olens said. “This is not a personal issue at all. It’s a legal issue, and I expect all local governments to comply with the Sunshine Laws.”
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City of Cumming Mayor Henry Ford Gravitt

Postby Nydia Tisdale » Tue Jul 23, 2013 7:50 pm

Mayor Gravitt kicks camera out of April 17, 2012 Cumming city council meeting.

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Georgia Attorney General calling Cumming Mayor Gravitt

Postby Nydia Tisdale » Tue Jul 23, 2013 8:15 pm

Mayor Gravitt claims the attorney general called at the May 22, 2012 city council meeting.

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Shame on the City of Cumming

Postby Relentless » Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:37 pm

Jody Moses

Will someone explain to me why the mayor and city council of Cumming did not lay claim to Sovereign Immunity in this case. It appears that the city has developed a pattern of abuse toward our environment. The sad part is that the voters are unwilling to hold their feet to the fire on this issue. Shame on the City of Cumming electorate.

Contact: Mary O. Harrison, UCR Communications Director, 404-285-3306;
Juliet Cohen, UCR General Counsel, 404-352-9828 x13

Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the City of Cumming Settle Lawsuit

February 10, 2010 -- Atlanta, GA – Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (UCR) has settled a lawsuit filed against the city of Cumming for its violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act.

UCR filed the lawsuit after observing violations on the site of the city’s future Aquatic Center, including considerable land disturbance with little adherence to best management practices to control storm water runoff and erosion and sedimentation.

The settlement terms, which are subject to review and approval by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. District Court of Northern District of Georgia, will result in the restoration of streams that flow to Lake Lanier and will also support environmental initiatives that benefit the local community.

The source of the dispute was the city’s clearing of approximately 22 acres of land located less than 400 yards from Lake Lanier for a competitive aquatic center in 2008. While clearing the site, the city destroyed the vegetated buffer and stream channel of an 812-foot section of an unnamed tributary to Sawnee Creek, which flows into Lake Lanier, without adhering to the requirements of state and federal permitting programs. Currently, Lanier is the primary source of drinking water for metro Atlanta.

UCR believes that this case was especially important because the city is responsible for administering and enforcing the same laws it failed to follow at the Aquatic Center site. “It’s essential for local governments to serve as good examples of best practices and to follow the letter of the laws they are supposed to enforce,” said Jason Ulseth, UCR’s technical programs director.

It will take approximately two years for all terms of the settlement to be fulfilled. UCR and the city of Cumming will work together to ensure these terms are achieved. Under the terms of the settlement the following measures will be taken on-site:

    (1) The cleared site, which has been sending plumes of sediment downstream into the lake with every rain, will be completely stabilized.

    (2) On each side of a 260 linear foot section of the tributary to Sawnee Creek, a 50-foot stream buffer will be restored and re-planted.

    (3) The Aquatic Center site parking lot will be constructed of pervious paving materials over at least 60% of its square footage to allow storm water to infiltrate into the ground.

    (4) Sediment will be removed from the tributary and Sawnee Creek.

    (5) UCR will inspect the site every two weeks to ensure that all water quality regulations are adhered to during future construction.

In addition, the following environmental projects will benefit the community:

    (1) The city will pay up to $100,000 to restore a degraded stream in Cumming City Park located on Pilgrim Mill Road with the installation of educational kiosks regarding the importance of streams and vegetated stream buffers. This project will improve water quality in the Chattahoochee River watershed and will offer a great educational opportunity for all park visitors.

    (2) The city will pay $40,000 to the Sawnee Mountain Foundation to support environmental education tuition and programming at the nature center for approximately 1,500 elementary school students of Forsyth County with an emphasis on four Title I Elementary schools to ensure that underserved populations are afforded an opportunity to connect with the natural world.

    (3) The city will pay $10,000 to the Turner Environmental Law Clinic of Emory University School of Law to support the representation of the public interest environmental community on water quality protection matters in Georgia.

Speaking on behalf of UCR, its executive director Sally Bethea said, “As Georgia continues to experience the extremes of droughts and monsoon-like rains, it is vital that we manage the way we develop the land so that our water resources are sustainable now and for future generations. Vegetated stream buffers help protect green space, keep our water cleaner, and protect property values during floods. Additionally, the use of pervious paving materials will facilitate absorption of storm water into the ground to sustain the underground flow that replenishes streams during droughts.”

Established in 1994, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (UCR) is an environmental advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting and restoring the Chattahoochee River, its lakes and tributaries, for the people, fish and wildlife that depend upon it. The Chattahoochee River is the primary drinking water source for 3.5 million people. UCR has 4,500 members and was the 11th licensed program in the international Waterkeeper Alliance, now 191 organizations strong.
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Re: Ga. AG Sam Olens v. Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt — Thur

Postby McJourno » Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:41 am

Ah Relentless:

You asked why didn't the city invoke sovereign immunity in the dispute with the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (UCR).

Here comes your answer:

Because the group is not a division/entity of Georgia government. It is an "advocacy organization," according to the group's PR people.

The sovereign immunity argument suggests that divisions of Georgia government cannot sue other divisions for damages unless the parties waived their right to immunity by agreement. UCR is not a government entity and thus sovereign immunity is irrelevant.

Might I suggest you actually listen to Mr. Tallant's argument about sovereign immunity during the hearing last week without the filter of hate and rage you feel for the mayor or city government. Read the cases and statute Mr. Tallant cites and then reassess your feelings.

"Turn away from the dark side, Luke."
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