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Cumming Challenges Sunshine Laws Constitutionality

City Attorney Dana Miles says Mayor Ford Gravitt is protected by the state constitution's "official immunity" doctrine and the City is protected by "sovereign immunity."

City of Cumming officials have challenged the constitutionality of Georgia's sunshine laws.

In response to a lawsuit filed by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens alleging the City of Cumming violated those laws last April, , City Attorney Dana Miles said the law is unconstitutional.

Tisdale and her video camera were removed from a city council meeting on April 17.

The same day the Georgia General Assembly approved House Bill 397, which specifically provides for visual and sound recordings of public meetings.

Olens has asked the court to impose the maximum civil penalties allowed under the new law, $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent one.

But Miles claims Mayor Ford Gravitt, who ordered Tisdale's camera removed from the proceedings, is protected under the Georgia Constitution's official immunity doctrine and the city is protected under the sovereign immunity doctrine.

In a counterclaim for declaratory judgment, Miles states, "With respect to the sovereign immunity of the city of Cumming, the Georgia Constitution provides, in pertinent part: sovereign immunity of the state and its departments and agencies can only be waived by an act of the General Assembly which specifically provides that sovereign immunity is thereby waived and the extent of such waiver."

The city's filing further stated. "All of the enforcement provisions of House Bill 397 are silent with respect to the issue of sovereign immunity."

With respect to the official immunity of Mayor Gravitt, the Georgia Constitution provides that officers and employees of the state or its departments and agencies shall not be subject to suit or liability, and no judgment shall be entered against them, for the performance or non performance of their official functions unless "actual malice or intent to injure” can be proven.

Miles said it is his law firm's policy not to comment on pending litigation and the attorney general's office did not responded to phone calls.

What are your thoughts about the latest response by the City of Cumming? Tell us in the comments below.

If you're interested in this story, here are a few others:

Lauren T. August 08, 2012 at 12:39 PM
The mayor screwed up by asking her to turn off her camera. Admit it and move on. It's important that the sunshine laws be fully enforced in the favor of citizens, not used to protect the government.
Marc August 08, 2012 at 03:29 PM
So much for sunshine. Another example of our politicians avoiding the light and living in the shadows. When will we as voters stop putting up with this? After seeing the primary votes for sheriff and commissioners it is obvious there are still way too many people in this county comfortable with the good old boy network. If we keep the status quo in November, we tell the world Forsyth County is happy to live in the past. Not sure I want to live in a county that lives in the past. Especially our past.
Rusty Shackleford August 08, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Sounds like the only SUNSHINE here is getting blown up everyones backsides as usual.
think i am crazy August 09, 2012 at 08:04 PM
You all should leave King Ford The First (only) alone. He has always been right!! . . . . . . . In his mind. And apparently in the minds of the few voters in the city who reelect him.
Kenneth Stepp November 27, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Nydia has been a constant voice for citizens for so long. She's definitely earned our respect. Don't stop!!

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