Johns Creek Herald, March 26, 2015

Page 10


10 | March 26, 2015 | Johns Creek Herald |

Federal lawsuit against city of Cumming settled Nydia Tisdale receives $200K By KATHLEEN STURGEON CUMMING, Ga. — Community blogger Nydia Tisdale’s longstanding federal lawsuit against the city of Cumming has finally reached a settlement, with the city agreeing to pay Tisdale $200,000. Tisdale, of Roswell, was kicked out of a city of Cumming meeting April 17, 2012 while video recording. At the start of the meeting, Mayor H. Ford Gravitt asked the chief of police to remove the camera from the auditorium. “We don’t allow filming inside of the City Hall here unless it’s specific reasons, so if you would remove the camera,” Gravitt said. When Tisdale told the mayor of the state’s Sunshine Laws, which had been updated that same day and give citizens the right to record open meetings, Gravitt said the matter wasn’t up for discussion and proceeded to have Tisdale and her camera removed from the meeting. Tisdale filed a lawsuit in response. Now, over two years later, the case has been settled by the insurance company, said Dana Miles, city attorney. “The city has no comment,” Miles said. “The insurance company has the right to settle the case, and they did.” Tisdale said the court recorded the settlement March 16. She said the senior superior court judge in the case told the two parties the reason to settle is finality. The settlement is “inclusive of all penalties, damages, attorney’s fees and expenses.” “To me, it means it is over — it’s done,” Tisdale said. “The settlement is significant in that it stops the proceeding and we don’t have to go to trial or continue spending money, on both sides, for legal fees.” Although the judge urged both sides to settle, Tisdale said the city wouldn’t at first, and the lawsuit continued for quite a while. “In my case, because it drug out over two-and-a-half years, the fees just kept growing over time because they kept fighting it tooth and nail and wouldn’t let it go,” Tisdale said. Tisdale said the city now has an audio/visual policy, adopted in May 2012, that designates an area for tripods. She said all citizens have the right to record. “It seems so surreal to be sitting at Cumming City Hall after being mistreated so rudely,” Tisdale said. “It was completely uncalled for and I had to defend and stick up for myself and assert my rights for myself and all citizens, because the public has a right to know what their government is doing.” Looking back, Tisdale said if she had been allowed to film that meeting, she probably would have not filmed any others because she wasn’t inter-


Nydia Tisdale stands in front of Cumming City Hall, the place she was kicked out of over two years ago.

ested in the city of Cumming. “I had been following Forsyth County for years, but after that ejection, I came to as many city councils as I could,” Tisdale said. After paying her attorney, Tisdale said she would like to buy a new tripod. “The fees were a significant portion of the settlement amount. The reason they were so high is because the city just fought this suit tooth and nail and wouldn’t let go,” Tisdale said. “I also want to do some home maintenance that has been neglected. I’ve been spending so much on attorney’s fees for so many years and that got put on the back burner.” Although the case is now settled, Tisdale said she wishes she could have had her day in court to tell her side of the story. “I was counseled the settlement was reasonable and to accept it, and I did,” Tisdale said. “And now it’s done. It’s like graduating. You work so hard for years and you’ve prepared and done your homework and you’re ready and [have] taken your exams and now you’re done. Mission accomplished. It’s a good feeling.”