City of Cumming Mayor Henry Ford Gravitt — HB 397

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Nydia Tisdale
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Woman kicked out meeting, files complaint

Post by Nydia Tisdale » April 29th, 2012, 12:15 pm

Woman kicked out meeting, files complaint

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Patrick Fox
April 20, 2012

A Roswell woman has filed a complaint with the State Attorney General’s Office over an incident Tuesday in which she was ordered to turn off her video camera at the start of a Cumming City Council meeting. Nydia Tisdale of Roswell was at the meeting to follow water negotiations with Forsyth County.

Mayor Ford Gravitt said Thursday he thought the equipment was disruptive and he offered to allow Tisdale to tape record the meeting or take notes. Georgia’s Open Meetings Law provides for tape and video devices at public meetings.

Tisdale said she was escorted out by the police chief while the city attorney looked on.

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What is the City of Cumming hiding?

Post by Nydia Tisdale » April 30th, 2012, 4:00 pm

Mayor turns off activist's camera at city of Cumming meeting
Attorney General Olens opens violation inquiry
ForsythHerald.com
COMMENTS

What, no Fulton County watchers?
April 22, 2012 | 10:13 PM

Apparently Ms. Tisdale has a real beef with Forsyth County for some reason. Maybe it's because she got burned by a public figure there. Maybe it's because she's just a feminist activist and Forsyth County is still too "old white male" for her liking. Who knows.

But if this woman REALLY wanted to go after corruption and greed and cronyism, she'd investigate her own Fulton County as a Roswell resident. With her energy and apparent time on her hands, she could really be put to good use and investigate the cronyism in Washington DC from the White House on down. But that might involve liberal Democrat investigations, which she apparently steers clear of.

Must be nice to have so much time on one's hands when most of us are struggling to either find a job or keep the one we currently have.

Jason
Milton



No Residency Requirement in the Law
April 23, 2012 | 09:30 PM

So, Jason, are you saying that if Nydia was a Forsyth resident, only then would it be illegal for the mayor to do what he did? This is the same kind of garbage argument that a certain County Commissioner has tried to use against Nydia several times. The problem is, there is no residency requirement for ANYONE to attend, comment during, or record any public meeting in the State of Georgia. Better get over it!

Hal Schneider
Cumin



Re-read my post, Hal..
April 24, 2012 | 11:35 PM

I'm not arguing her right to spend all her energy in Forsyth County, braniac. I'm wondering WHY she is spending so much time there when there is blatant and wonton WAY more corruption, incompetence, and cronyism in FULTON COUNTY.

And if you don't like my freedom to say that, which it appears you do, you can GO POUND SAND.

Jason
Milton



Never hide if you're elected
April 25, 2012 | 01:12 AM

Nydia Tisdale isn't under the microscope here. She could be anyone. Except "all of us" aren't concerned enough with local government to even notice when things go sour. When an elected official says "no recordings", it shouldn't matter who you are or what you stand for, the response should be "why?". When citizens are not allowed to even ask why, we have much more of an intrinsic problem than singling out a female activist watchdog.

Concerned
Alpharetta



It's time to insist on open and transparent government
April 25, 2012 | 10:43 PM

From 2001 to 2008, the American public lost more civil rights than ever before in history primarily in the name of National security and the Patriots Act. It is ludicrous for Americans to be locked up and not charged with something. It's time to clean up closed door, good ole boy politics. No more secret meetings and agreements. The citizens have a right to know all government business, they as taxpayers are the boss. We hire these politicians to act on our behalf and we have every right to know what's being done in our name. I thought Ms. Tisdale does have a job, a reporter for AboutForsyth. She does us all a great public service. Most citizens cannot attend local government meetings and it is a service to see uncensored documentation. When the law is broken against anyone of us, we are all in danger.

Be very afraid
Cumming

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The mayor, city attorney and police chief need to step down

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 1st, 2012, 8:45 am

Mayor Gravitt overstepped bounds of authority, civility
ForsythHerald.com
COMMENTS

King Gravitt
April 23, 2012 | 07:06 PM

After 45 years, the Mayor clearly expects his wishes to be carried out by his puppets without question; that goes not only for the city council and the Police Chief, but all city employees AND three members of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. Hopefully, the AG will send a strong message to the Mayor, that his fascist days are coming to a rapid close. The maximum penalty for this flagrant violation of the law should be imposed.

Hal Schneider
Cumin



Mayor
April 23, 2012 | 07:31 PM

I have known Ford Gravitt most of my life. It is no secret that he has added value to the City of Cumming, Ga.

His mistake in bullying a little, polite woman with the Law at her side is now all of his records good and bad will be fair game for every activist coming at him and his fiefdom.

This will be the total undoing of a man who should have retired from politics while the gettin' was good, now it ain't. Ford is now in a cage with the door welded shut.

I am woefully saddened to see this awful day arrive for Ford and the City Counsel. This will be a blood bath for Cumming's history and I take no pride in witnessing this horrible event about to explode.

David Milum
Cumming



Mayor Henry Ford Gravitt's unlawful use of police force
April 24, 2012 | 08:15 AM

Can Forsyth County expect serious water negotiations from a mayor who doesn't know the law, unlawfully abuses police power against innocent women and tells lies about EPD meetin's?

From what I understand there are many, many more issues lurking in the closets at City Hall.

Brant Meadows
Daves Creek



Mr.
April 24, 2012 | 02:10 PM

It was inevitable that this clash was to occur. Anytime you give an individual such power without any oversight, they begin to feel they are above the law. We have sat by and let career politicians drag us down, without demanding an accounting for their actions. Other council members and even the city attorney did not have the courage to stand up and say You are wrong. It is common knowledge that in any public situation be it a police traffic stop or just to watch the stoplight change from green to red you have the right to film anything you wish.

The Mayor clearly violated this woman's civil rights and now because the city attorney did not step in this has the potential to cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why? Because after nearly half a century at the helm of the city of Cumming, the mayor has changed it from a democracy to a dictatorship. One in which no one will question any decision that the Mayor makes. The city attorney had to know that Nydia Tisdale was well within her civil rights to record a public meeting. If he was not aware of it; why is he the city attorney? This is clearly a personal vendetta and the Mayor ordered his subordinates to do his dirty work.

It's a new world now and citizens are starting to demand accountability from their elected officials. It is long overdue. After 45 Years ruling the city of Cumming it is time for the Mayor to step down. Along with the City Attorney. It was his job to protect the city from libel to advise the council on legal matters. In any other position if you do not do your job you get fired. It is time to clean house across the board. I do not care what political party you are for or against. If a candidate has Incumbent next to his name he needs to be voted out so we can reclaim our government City, State, and Federal.

William Thomas


Mayor
April 26, 2012 | 08:44 PM

Since relocating to the area recently, I cannot believe the politics that are practiced in Cumming this day and age. I recently heard about the sheriff and the 911 call this past January. I've heard there are closed door meetings between elected officials. Now the mayor violating this womans civil rights. I've also heard about how the sheriffs will bully citizens. I hope there is some justice in this town. The mayor and the city attorney and police chief need to step down for this recent incident. Beautiful place but cannot wait to relocate, too backwards for me.

jon
cumming

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Cumming needs a new lawyer and a new mayor

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 1st, 2012, 4:16 pm

City to state: Open meeting violation unclear
Tells Attorney General law too vague
ForsythHerald.com
COMMENTS

Cumming needs a new lawyer
April 28, 2012 | 04:22 PM

Seriously, if that's all Ms. Miles has to say in response to a clear violation of Ms. Tisdale's rights, Cumming needs a new lawyer...and a new mayor while you're at it.

Ike Hall
Clarkston



Cumming needs a new mayor.
April 29, 2012 | 09:31 PM

I'd do everything I could to replace Gravitt if I were in the city limits. Fortunately, I am not.

Len
Cumming

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City of Cumming - Open Meetings Act Complaint - 04.17.2012

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 1st, 2012, 4:20 pm

From: Nydia Tisdale
Sent: Wed 4/25/12 8:20 AM
To: Attorney General Sam Olens; Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter;
Special Assistant Shiela Guider
Cc: Jody Moses; Aldo Nahed
1 attachment: Cumming Moses Tisdale Nahed 04.17.2012.mp3


April 25, 2012

Attorney General Sam Olens
Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter
Special Assistant Shiela Guider
Georgia Department of Law
40 Capitol Square
Atlanta, GA 30334-1300


Dear Attorney General, et al.:

Please find attached a 6-minute excerpt of an audio recorded after the City of Cumming Council Meeting on April 17, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

The voices belong to Dr. Joe Moses, member of the Forsyth County Planning Commission; Aldo Nahed, editor and photographer for the Forsyth Herald; and citizen Nydia Tisdale.

Here is a list of alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act at the city council meeting:

• Four meeting attendees including Dr. Moses and Tisdale were locked out at the street entrance to the building
• Tisdale walked around to the back entrance to enter City Hall
• Tisdale asked four police officers and City Attorney Dana Miles to unlock the front door and they refused
• Three meeting attendees eventually walked around the building and arrived tardy for the meeting
• City of Cumming Mayor Henry Ford Gravitt banned Sony camcorder from the auditorium
• Chief of Police Casey Tatum and another officer forcibly removed Tisdale and her camcorder
• City Attorney Dana Miles sat silent and did nothing
• Police officer stopped Tisdale from taking moving pictures from her Olympus camera during the meeting
• Mayor and city council voted for a non-binding agreement with Forsyth County
• Mayor and city council adjourned and entered into executive session without a stated purpose
• Mayor and city council held an unannounced meeting after executive session to vote for a binding agreement with Forsyth County


Thank you for investigating my complaint against the City of Cumming.


Kind regards,

Nydia Tisdale


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Cumming stands by removal of blogger with camera

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 5th, 2012, 2:30 pm

Cumming stands by removal of blogger with camera

WSBTV.com
By Mike Petchenik
May 3, 2012

CUMMING, Ga. — The City of Cumming continues to defend the mayor's decision to remove a videotaping blogger from a recent city council meeting.

Nydia Tisdale, who runs the blog http://www.aboutforsyth.net, posted a video on YouTube showing the city's police chief escorting her out of the meeting at the request of the city's mayor, Henry Ford Gravitt.

In a letter provided to Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik by the Attorney General's Office, city attorney Dana Miles refutes many of Tisdale's complaints.

One complaint said the city locked several doors to City Hall and made it difficult for people to access. In his letter, Miles said the city does have an entrance for people during council meetings.

"What is required is that the meeting be open to the public and that the public be provided access to the meeting, which it undoubtedly was," Miles said.

Miles disputes that Police Chief Casey Tatum and another officer "forcibly removed" Tisdale from the meeting.

"To our knowledge, Ms. Tisdale was never touched, and all of the photographs we have seen of the subject incident show that Chief Tatum was not trying to remove Tisdale, but the camera on its tripod," wrote Miles.

Miles pointed out that the City of Cumming videotapes its meetings for public review.

"It would appear that such a video further ameliorates if not completely satisfies the issue raised regarding the recording of the April 17 meeting," said Miles.

The Attorney General's Office has not yet ruled on whether the city broke the law. If it is determined that laws were broken, the office could fine those involved.

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Mayor Gravitt violates old and new Open meeting laws

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 10th, 2012, 11:11 pm

Mayor Gravitt violates old and new Open meeting laws

Social and Fiscal Conservative News in Video
Edward C. Tracey
02:00 AM on April 30, 2012

Power goes to peoples heads and they think the government is their toy instead of being public servants and doing everything in the sun light. Mr. Mayor the town does not belong to you!

It belong to the people. You work for God and are held accountable for your actions by Him.

I bet your family is proud of you for doing this a to a woman. Bully politicians need to to resign and leave the governing to real servants.

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Mayor throws camerawoman out of meeting

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 10th, 2012, 11:16 pm

Mayor throws camerawoman out of meeting

WSB Radio
By Amanda Moyer
Friday, April 20, 2012

Cumming, GA — The Georgia Attorney General's Office is investigating whether the mayor of Cumming broke state sunshine laws when the city's mayor refused to allow an activist to videotape a recent council meeting.

At that meeting, Mayor Ford Gravitt had the police chief escort Nydia Tisdale out of the chambers.

"Chief Tatum, if you would, remove the camera from the room. We don't allow cameras to film inside the City Hall here unless it's for civic reasons," said Gravitt.

Tisdale runs a government watchdog blog and was at the meeting to cover a decision about a water contract.

"It's frightening, it's egregious. My rights were violated," said Tisdale.

Gravitt says he believes the law only allows someone to take still pictures or video, but not both. He also thinks allowing cameras into the meeting could pose a safety issue.

The state's sunshine laws allow anyone to take pictures and video recordings in a public meeting. Officials say if it is deemed a violation occurred, the state could fine the mayor, the city and others $1,000.

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Arrogant and pompous and bullying

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 10th, 2012, 11:20 pm

WSB Radio COMMENTS

coastal at 7:34 a.m. Apr. 20, 2012
who in the hell does this mayor think he is???? oboma???

HLee at 7:37 a.m. Apr. 20, 2012
That mayor is not accustomed to obeying any laws if it doesn't suit him. He tells the police what to do and it has gone to his head. The people of Cumming would be smart to toss him ASAP He is too much a typical government official. Arrogant and pompous and bullying..

coastal at 9:08 a.m. Apr. 20, 2012
he broke the law put his butt in jail

exjupiter at 9:26 a.m. Apr. 20, 2012
Activists suck.

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Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt vs. Open Meetings Act

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 10th, 2012, 11:30 pm

Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt vs. Open Meetings Act

Brambleman
Jonathan Grant
April 20, 2012

There were some habeas corpus issues in Brambleman, but this is real.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is taking a look at the actions of Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt after he threw a local activist with a video camera out of a city council meeting Tuesday night.

Nydia Tisdale, who runs the AboutForsyth.com blog (“Investigating Corruption in Forsyth County, GA”), has ruffled some feathers up there, and apparently she was up there doing some more ruffling the other night. She was there to record discussion about a water contract with Forsyth County; the mayor decided that she shouldn’t. He commanded the police chief to remove the camera (and her with it) from council chambers. You can see her Youtube posting of the incident here. (The trouble begins when the meeting is called to order, at the 2:15 mark, and Ms. Tisdale protests all the way out the door.)

“We don’t allow filming inside the city hall here unless there’s a specific reason,” Gravitt declared. (These newfangled technologies take a while to catch on.)

Mr. Gravitt has it bass-ackwards (semantics in honor of Lake Lanier). Under Georgia law, officials don’t allow open access to government proceedings for specific reasons, since public access is the norm. No. The law allows officials to deny access due to specific reasons: personnel matters, land sales and purchases, and attorney-client discussions. As a matter of fact, the General Assembly revamped Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws during the 2012 session, and Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed the bill into law. You can read the attorney general’s summary here.

In WSB-TV’s coverage of the local controversy (kudos to them for doing so), Gravitt makes the outlandish claim that either still cameras or videos can be used during a meeting, but not both. He thinks the law is “complicated.” He also said allowing one camera “would embolden multiple people” to do so (the old “cameras into the tent” argument.)

That’s nonsense, of course. There’s nothing complicated about it at all. Gravitt felt like throwing Nydia Tisdale out of the meeting, so he did. Now he looks like a fool trying to defend his actions. WSB reporter Mike Petchenik asked him what he would do if TV crews came up to Forsyth County to cover a meeting, and he said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Balderdash. A citizen has the same right to record a public meeting as the combined forces of all of Atlanta’s TV stations. And it’s especially important for citizen bloggers to cover these events when the mainstream media don’t. Ms. Tisdale’s blogger name is “Relentless,” by the way, and she’s covering this issue in loving detail. She’s already posted a lot of information, including a copy of the letter Olens sent to Cumming city attorney Dana Miles asking for the city’s response to the alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act. Gravitt could be fined $1,000 if he’s found guilty.

For the record, Ms. Tisdale calls the violation of her First Amendment rights “egregious.”

This incident shows why a lot of relative newcomers to Forsyth grumble about the secretive ways of the community’s old-time leadership. To get an idea of how things work, check out this post on the Forsuth County sheriff’s recent troubles.

I’m a former reporter, and I can tell you from experience that some government officials will try to cut off access if they don’t like the kind of attention they’re getting. I doubt that they like Ms. Tisdale’s coverage one bit. If they get away with it, shame on us. Freedom of the Press: This is a basic right that requires eternal vigilance.

Hey, Forsyth County Tea Party. Where are you on this one?

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First Shot Fired Under Georgia’s New “Sunshine Law”?

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 10th, 2012, 11:50 pm

First Shot Fired Under Georgia’s New “Sunshine Law”?

ConsumerBlawg.com
By C. Lawrence Meyer
April 22, 2012

Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 397, which substantially revises Georgia’s Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act, on April 17, 2012, effective as of that date. Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt apparently did not get the memo as he promptly stomped right on top of it by banning video recording at the Cumming City Council meeting. And, ironically, it’s all on Cumming’s own video.

Nydia Tisdale (not a Forsyth County resident, by the way) has recorded many of the government meetings in Cumming and Forsyth County for months; however, the Mayor chose this auspicious day to announce that he does not allow filming inside City Hall. After opening the meeting the Mayor welcomed “everyone to the April Meeting of the Cumming City Council” (well, almost everyone). Mayor Gravitt started (in his own words) “first of all with a little housecleaning” by asking Cumming Police Chief Casey Tatum to remove Tisdale’s video camera from the meeting. Disappointingly, no one else in attendance at the meeting (including City Attorney Dana Miles) raised any objections to the Mayor’s actions.

Unfortunately for Mayor Gravitt and his City Council, the Open Meetings Act provides, “The public at all times shall be afforded access to meetings declared open to the public pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section. Visual, sound, and visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.” O.C.G.A. § 51-14-1(c). In fact, this was true even under the old law, and Mayor Gravitt had apparently not tested it before this auspicious day.

According to the AJC, “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. Of course, he didn’t explain this at the time nor did he simply ask Ms. Tisdale to remove her tripod. His proffered explanation would also require banning still photo cameras and sound recording, but those are allowed at the meetings. Tisdale filed a formal complaint with the State Law Department, and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is is weighing whether to file a lawsuit.

Already, public officials are plotting to turn back the clock on open meetings. Gravitt’s view of the law: “We’re just going to have to live with it. We’ll just wait and try to change some of it next year.”

So much for open meetings in Cumming!

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Forsyth activist, camera tossed from City Hall

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 11th, 2012, 4:22 pm

Responses to “Forsyth activist, camera tossed from City Hall”

COMMENTS
RootsInAlpharetta.com

A April 19, 2012 at 7:37 am
Who does this mayor think he is? This is not a dictatorship last I checked. Thank you Lee for posting this.

Lee April 19, 2012 at 9:44 am
Gravitt has been mayor for something like 30 years. Cumming is a small city, only about 5000 live in the city limits. But even with that, Gravitt has enormous political influence over Forsyth County through his control of water (which the county *must* purchase from him). He’s got them by the short hairs.

Maybe all that power goes to his head. Who knows. I expect the Attorney General to come down on him pretty hard over this issue.

Cool Papa Bell April 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm
So getting press credentials–as I’ve done many times–shouldn’t apply to her? And this sweet lady is above the rules the rest of us have to follow, why again?

Mike April 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm
Fun fact: You can’t even take a photograph from the House or Senate gallery when the legislature is in session.

Lee April 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm
@Cool – The law says you don’t need press credentials. Anyone can photograph, video or record an open meeting.

K April 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm
Shakes head…. but no longer in disbelief. We are a nation governed by the law of the jungle (might makes right) rather than the rule of law (as in Natural Law — moral law).

Kim April 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm
There is a reason GA ranks tops in political corruption. Just saying.
Political Corruption: 8 States Earn Failing Grades

4Dees April 20, 2012 at 10:30 am
Sounds like the people of Cumming need to “fire” their mayor and members of the city council. They seem to be taking advice on how to run govt. from the Obama administration…….closed and tyrannical. Thirty years as mayor is far, far too many years to serve as a “professional” politician.

Jake Lilley April 20, 2012 at 11:01 am
Mayor Gravitt is a Fool. Thank you for taking a stand for political transparency!

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Tisdale returns to City Hall, wielding camera

Post by Nydia Tisdale » May 15th, 2012, 9:36 pm

Tisdale returns to City Hall, wielding camera

Forsyth Herald
By Aldo Nahed
May 14, 2012

CUMMING, Ga. — On May 7, Nydia Tisdale was back at Cumming City Hall — her camera in tow.

This time, she sat on the front row and was not acknowledged by the city of Cumming staff or mayor during a special called meeting.

"They didn't speak to me at all," Tisdale said. "I decided to film from my seat."

A city of Cumming audio-visual recording policy sheet was available outside council chambers.

"Handheld audio and/or visual recording devices may be used from any location within the public seating area," wrote Gerald Blackburn, city administrator. "No audio and/or visual recording device may be set up in the aisles."

On April 17, Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt told Tisdale to stop video recording a regular meeting.

"We don't allow filming inside of the City Hall unless there is a specific reason," Gravitt told Tisdale before asking police to remove the camera from the meeting.

Tisdale immediately filed a complaint with the state attorney general's office.

In response to the complaint filed by Tisdale, City Attorney Dana Miles asked the attorney general for clarification and guidance on the state's open meetings law.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the open meeting changes merely hours before the city meeting April 17.

The previous version of the law said, "visual, sound, and visual and sound" recordings are allowed during open meetings. The new version says "visual and sound recording" is allowed.

Miles asked Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter for the office's opinion on whether the new rule allows for only visual and only sound or if it allows for both visual and sound.

Tisdale said the city's response so far has been, "ridiculous."

"It's indefensible," Tisdale said. "It's arrogant."

The attorney general's staff is evaluating the city's response.

"I'm glad the attorney general is pursuing this and taking it very seriously," Tisdale said.

Tisdale said she has not spoken to an attorney. She wants to let the attorney general's office conclude their findings before she decides to seek legal counsel.

"Once I have their decision, I think that it will be a little easier to move forward with any action that I decide to take," Tisdale said. "It's most likely."

Brant Meadows, a Tisdale supporter, said she was the reason he attended the May 7 city of Cumming special meeting.

"Had they said, 'Bring all the video cameras,' people wouldn't be here today," Meadows said. "When they grabbed her camera, that was the point where they crossed the line."

SEE PHOTOS ON LINK.

David Milum
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Joined: July 7th, 2007, 10:33 am

What in the world was City Attorney Dana Miles thinking?

Post by David Milum » May 15th, 2012, 11:16 pm

Excellent coverage. Ford knew better than to dare anyone like that. What in this World was he thinking? If he was smart he'd cut a major hickory switch and whoop Dana Miles clear outta Cumming. What a bumbling idiot Dana Miles is!

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