Roswell resident accuses mayor of exceeding term limits

A Roswell resident has filed suit against the city’s longtime leader, claiming he violated Roswell’s term limit requirements when he was elected mayor for the fifth time.

Jere Wood, who was re-elected in 2013, initiated the change to Roswell law that would prohibit a mayor from serving more than three consecutive terms, or 12 consecutive years. The city passed the resolution in 2010, and minutes from that meeting show the change was intended to go into effect after the term Wood was serving had ended.

But that’s not what the city’s charter says, according to the suit, filed Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court by Michael Litten, who staged a write-in candidacy for mayor a decade ago

His suit claims that the 2010 bill that modified Roswell’s incorporation agreement simply says that “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.”

“Apparently, the legislature made a mistake,” Wood said. “I’m a lawyer, but I’m not lawyering this one.”

Wood said he wanted term limits in place in order to encourage city leaders to take risks. They aren’t necessary for him, he said, because he continues to be a risk-taker.

Litten, who filed the suit, said he has known Wood for three decades, and has campaigned for him in the past. But Wood replaced a 30-year incumbent mayor on a term-limit platform, he said, and the 18 years Wood has led the city have been too many.

“He’s betraying a campaign promise,” Litten said. “He really shouldn’t have run.”

The suit requires a judge’s say-so to go forward said Litten’s attorney, John Monroe. The case, which challenges an office-holder’s right to hold that office, is uncommon, he said. He did not know how long it would take to know whether the case will be allowed to proceed.

Monroe said some Roswell residents had thought Wood had been grandfathered in, but that the law doesn’t reflect that.

Litten said the city has a lot of talented residents who could serve as mayor, and that he’s infuriated that Wood continues to hold the office. He discovered on Monday that the language didn’t refer to Wood being grandfathered in and went to Monroe shortly after.

A certified health coach who ran a write-in campaign for mayor in 2005, Litten said he would like to make Wood more vulnerable. Most of his neighbors don’t yet know about the suit, he said, but he expects that people will be excited about it.

“I see it as a couple solid body punches to Jere,” he said. “It gives me great joy, my heart soars. Now I have the opportunity, through the legal system, to perhaps get him out of office.”

For his part, Wood said he has tripled the amount of parkland in the city, improved the bond rating and nearly doubled Roswell’s population during his tenure. He wanted the city to have term limits for his successor, he said, to keep Roswell from stagnating.