Roswell’s mayor fights lawsuit that would apply to him retroactively

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood is in favor of term limits. He just doesn’t want to apply them to his years in office.

Wood is fighting a lawsuit that claims his 18 years at the city's helm violate the term limits he championed. He has asked city council to urge legislators to rewrite the city's charter, clarifying that they didn't mean for the limits, passed in 2010, to be retroactive.

A Thursday ruling by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig L. Schwall, Sr. allowed the suit to go forward and said Wood would be required “to answer by what right you claim to hold the Office of Mayor of the City of Roswell.”

The suit, filed by Michael Litten, claims that Wood violated Roswell’s term limits in 2013 when he was elected to his fifth term in office.

In 2010, Roswell passed a resolution that would prohibit a mayor from serving more than three consecutive terms, or 12 consecutive years. The resolution was taken up by the legislature, which amended Roswell’s charter to say “no person who has been elected to three or more four-year terms of office as mayor shall be eligible for election to the office of mayor.”

Wood declined to comment for this story, but said on his Facebook page that the lawsuit stemmed from “a mistake made in the city charter back in 2010.” He said previously that he intended the term limits to go into effect at the time they were passed, and that they were meant to ensure that subsequent mayors took risks, and did not become complacent in their leadership. He continues to be a risk-taker, Wood said.

“My belief is if the mayor wants to stay in office for a long time, the safest thing is to do nothing,” he said previously.

Monday, Roswell’s city council will take up a resolution that will ask the General Assembly to modify Roswell’s charter to clarify that no terms prior to 2013 count toward the city’s limits.

The legislature’s act “was not clear on when such term limits applied,” the resolution said, and “the Mayor and Council of the City of Roswell would like to clarify that their request was prospective in nature.”

Wood, on Facebook, asked residents to email council members and come to city hall for the meeting.

“I need your support to amend the charter and fix this error so I can continue to serve as your Mayor,” he wrote.

He also posted a YouTube video of the 2010 council meeting, saying “the intent was for the term limits to go into effect after the change and not be retroactive.”

More than a dozen people commented on Wood’s page, showing their support for his continued leadership.

“You sir ARE Roswell!” one person wrote. Others simply said they would be at the meeting.

Litten, who previously waged a write-in campaign for mayor against Wood, said he is optimistic about his chances for success in the suit.

“Regardless of how it goes down, the beautiful thing about democracy is that we get to have these things adjudicated,” he said.