ROSWELL, Ga. — It may be next month before Jere Wood’s remaining tenure as Roswell mayor will be settled in court.
Wood appeared in Fulton County Superior May 8 to face a lawsuit alleging that he is illegally exceeding his term limits as mayor as set forth in the 2010 amended City Charter.
The lawsuit was launched against Wood by Roswell resident Michael Litten, who said he plans to run for mayor this fall.
Litten pointed to a section in the City Charter that limited the mayor to no more than three consecutive terms for a total of 12 years.
Chapter 3, Section 50 of the charter states, “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 was first elected as mayor of Roswell in 1997 and was most recently reelected in 2013 for his fifth consecutive term. This is his 20th year serving as mayor.
Wood, however, testified at the court session that the 2010 change did not apply to terms served before the law went into effect.
“My understanding, — and I believe the council was clear — was that I could serve an additional three terms after the term that I was serving,” Wood said.
According to Wood and Roswell City Attorney David Davidson, the 2010 charter was not retroactive. They argued that the term limits didn’t take effect until Wood’s term ended in 2012.
The Roswell City Council did vote to send a resolution clarifying the charter’s language earlier this year in February. The amendment sent to the State Legislature stated that elected terms prior to 2017 would not count toward the 12-year limit.
However, the Georgia House of Representatives sent a reply back in early March declining to make the clarification.
“[The request] failed to receive unanimous agreement within the delegation as required by House Rules and will not be moving this year,” State Rep. Chuck Martin said in a letter to the city.
“The lack of unanimity is the result of some delegation members wishing to allow the ongoing litigation to be decided without legislative interference.”
Litten said he first filed the suit January 2016 because Wood had “betrayed” his campaign promise for term limits after running against 30-year incumbent mayor William “Pug” Mabry.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall has told both sides to submit their arguments to him by June 15, after which he would rule on the issue.
The 2017 race for the mayor’s seat is set for Nov. 7 during Roswell’s general election.