A Georgia city is challenging the state's new sunshine laws in response to an open meetings lawsuit state Attorney General Sam Olens filed against its mayor. The Fulton County Daily Report reports that Olens' lawsuit is the first under Georgia's new Open Meetings and Open Records acts. The lawsuit states that Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt and police barred Nydia Tisdale from videotaping an April 17 city council meeting.
Georgia's Open Records Act requires a 14-day waiting period between when state agencies and local governments name finalists and vote on an official hire, to give the public an opportunity to learn about the finalists and voice concerns. Under a new rule approved by the Legislature, the Board of Regents must give the public only five days' notice.
The state is accusing Cumming’s mayor of violating the Open Meetings and Records Act by preventing a resident from filming a city council meeting. In a civil complaint filed this week, Georgia attorney general Sam Olens says Mayor H. Ford Gravitt told resident Nydia Tisdale she couldn’t record an April council meeting. He then asked a policeman to forcibly remove her.
Questionable interpretations of the state’s open meetings and records law by public boards in Savannah and Macon helped inspire Georgia’s attorney general to push for the statute’s overhaul. Sam Olens told the Atlanta Press Club Tuesday he now has the power to take violators to court.
Gov. Nathan Deal touted the General Assembly’s 2012 legislative accomplishments at a talk Tuesday at the Atlanta Press Club. He credited bi-partisan cooperation for passing a tax cut bill and a sentencing rules overhaul.
State lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would introduce the first major changes to the state’s open meetings and records act in a decade. It would stiffen penalties for agencies that withhold open records and boards that hold meetings in secret.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens wants a revamped state Sunshine law that would stiffen penalties and increase enforcement. He spoke Thursday at the Atlanta Press Club about changes he has proposed. But he has no plans to suggest the legislators and the Governor be subject to the law.