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Hearing in EMC action against critic to be held next Thursday afternoon

A hearing in a lawsuit recently filed by Grady Electric membership Corporation against one of its most vocal critics will be held at the Grady County Courthouse next Thursday afternoon.
Superior Court Judge Heather Lanier will gavel the hearing to order at 3 p.m. Aug. 17. The hearing had originally been scheduled for July 13, but was postponed at the request of defendant Gordon Clyatt’s attorney Gabe Ridley.
Grady EMC filed the suit against Clyatt on June 28 in response to Clyatt posting EMC records on the “Take Back Our Grady EMC” Facebook page on Monday, June 26.
A temporary restraining order was issued by Judge Lanier. The order prevents Clyatt from posting any other EMC records or documents on social media.
At issue are a variety of EMC records released via social media by Clyatt, including some documents relating to a 2004 loan issued by the EMC board of directors to then EMC President and General Manager Thomas A. Rosser Sr. The records indicate Rosser used the loan to finance his purchase of Grady EMC’s 25,000 shares in United National Bank. Rosser is a founding director of the bank, which was organized in 2000.
The membership and public have been made aware of the loan as far back as 2014 when Clyatt and his supporters began publicizing the actions of the EMC board of directors in what they said was an attempt to foster a change in the management of the cooperative. What is new in the recently publicized documents are alleged details concerning the loan and bonuses paid to Rosser that equal the loan payments he made for multiple years, in addition to other details.
Clyatt has posted minutes of board meetings where discussions and board action regarding the loan were recorded as well as information related to a $3.8 million renovation of the EMC headquarters.
In its legal action, Grady EMC is claiming that Clyatt violated an EMC Act in state law and is asking the court to enforce the Act. Clyatt’s attorney argues that the EMC, according to Georgia law, “may” deny or limit an inspection of EMC records only under certain circumstances.
Ridley, in his brief to the court, states, “Plaintiff (EMC) asks the Court to read more into the statute than it actually states. The statute simply requires the EMC to keep certain records, it provides members in good standing the right to inspect such records, and it provides certain circumstances under which an EMC ‘may’ deny or limit requests. The operative language ‘may deny or limit’ indicates the legislature intended to provide EMC’s with the discretion to deny certain requests. The statute does not ‘require’ a member to submit an affidavit prior to inspection, it simply gives EMCs the discretion to deny a request if the member refuses to provide one.”
Ridley goes on to state, “Plaintiff has concocted a theory, not based on the plain, unambiguous language of the statute, but rather a supposed ‘programmatic finding’ by the legislature that any exposure of EMC documents to persons who are not members is illegal because the statute only grants members with the right of inspection. Such a position is illogical and contrary to the statute’s plain language. Just because non-members do not have the statutory right to demand to inspect EMC records, it does not follow that the viewing of such records by non-members in a public forum is ‘illegal.'”
Ridley will also argue before Judge Lanier that the statute does not contain “express language making it illegal for a member who has not submitted an affidavit to possess EMC records nor does it make it illegal for a member to publish EMC documents on a public forum.”
Clyatt’s attorney also contends in the court brief that if the EMC were to apply its interpretation of the statute to its own acts then it violated the statute during 2014 litigation involving Clyatt.
To the point that the EMC has suffered damage due to the publishing of the records on a public forum, Ridley argues, “Plaintiff does not point to statutory language upon which it rests its claim.That’s because such language does not exist. Instead it relies on the theory that the General Assembly has made a ‘programmatic finding’ that EMCs suffer irreparable harm when the records are ‘exposed’ to non-members. The General Assembly has made no such finding.”
The EMC also claims that Clyatt breached an agreement reached in the settlement of the 2014 litigation by releasing the documents and continuing to criticize how Grady EMC is managed.
However, Ridley argues there is “no language in the 2014 settlement agreement that restricts Clyatt from releasing the documents provided by the EMC’s attorneys.”
On Clyatt’s behalf, Ridley also states in the brief that former Grady EMC CEO Thomas A. Rosser Sr., sued Clyatt claiming the contents of the documents in question would prove Clyatt a liar. Rosser’s son and current EMC president, Bo Rosser, submitted an affidavit to support his father’s claim and also asserted that those documents would disprove Clyatt’s public comments. Now, Bo Rosser, on behalf of the Grady EMC, has submitted a verified complaint claiming the release of such documents will cause irreparable harm to the Grady EMC. By filing the present claim, Bo Rosser, is asking the court to forcibly deprive Clyatt of documents that Clyatt could produce as evidence in his father’s defamation claim, which is pending appeal.”
Ridley also argues that the EMC has violated the terms of the settlement agreement reached in 2014 because it discharged Clyatt from “any and all future claims,…actions and causes of action arising from claims asserted in the 2014 litigation.”
In conclusion, Ridley writes, “Plaintiff (EMC) seeks to silence Clyatt by bringing this frivolous claim for injunctive relief. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted to ensure that free, open and public debate would not be restricted by issuance of injunctions that prevent the release of information. Georgia’s Anti-SLAPP act was enacted to protect defendants like Clyatt from being forced into silence through abuse of the civil process.Therefore, this Court should dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint and allow the parties to settle their public dispute in the arena of public opinion.”
Grady EMC is being represented by attorneys T. Joshua R. Archer and Tyler P. Bishop of Balch & Bingham of Atlanta as well as M. Claire Chason of Cairo.
According to Grady EMC board member Ronald Sellars, EMC President Thomas A. (Bo) Rosser Jr. had pressed the board to file suit against Clyatt for months prior to Clyatt posting the EMC records on social media.
When asked last month to comment, Rosser Jr. stated,  “By every independent measure, Grady EMC is considered a well run, healthy and fiscally responsible organization. A misinformation campaign by one individual has painted people and certain practices in a false way despite his and a superior court judge’s dismissal of the issues, and this could have a detrimental impact in how the EMC operates. Stopping the misinformation is an attempt to limit damage to the business and its reputation.”
When pressed to explain exactly what was false about the information Clyatt has posted on social media, Rosser Jr., stated last month, “His false narrative regarding the loan and other issues ranging from it being a waste of money and representing it being stolen from members when in reality the members received a 50 percent return plus interest. In addition, he continues to make these false statements including accusations of illegal activity when it has been reviewed, audited, litigated, and dismissed by himself and the legal system.”
Clyatt said he is urging EMC members to attend the hearing next week.
“Please fill the room up like you did at Family Worship Center for the Grady EMC annual meeting last October,” Clyatt said.
He added, “To any and all that stand behind this cause, I need your support.”

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