A victory for open government

Citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale  says she has agreed to a $200,000 settlement in a lawsuit against the city of Cumming and Mayor H. Ford Gravitt for preventing her from videotaping a city council meeting.

In a victory for public access, Tisdale brought the suit after a 2012 incident in which she was forced from a public meeting about a water-sharing agreement. The mayor told her filming was not authorized, even though Georgia law clearly states that audio and video recording of public meetings is allowed.

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Tisdale covers public meetings armed with a video camera and publishes on her website, AboutForsyth.com, and on social media. She’s a formidable advocate for open government and has had other encounters when she protested being prohibited from filming, including a Roswell city council work session and a Forsyth County candidate forum.

Attorney General Sam Olens also brought suit against Cumming in state court and won that complaint in 2014.

“Citizens have a right to know what their government is doing,” Tisdale said in a news release.

“This settlement sends a powerful message that government officials cannot shroud their operations in secrecy by barring truth-telling video. 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,” said Gerry Weber, Tisdale’s lead attorney.


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