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The Burrell Ellis Indictment and Fallout: The Story So Far

By D. Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 7/19/2013, 8:41 a.m.
Dekalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is facing a 15-count indictment on charges of extortion, bribery, theft and conspiracy.

The Suspension:

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal this week named an Interim CEO to lead DeKalb County after he suspended Burrell Ellis who is facing a 15-count indictment on charges of extortion, bribery, theft and conspiracy.

Ellis, who was arrested last month and booked into the DeKalb County Jail, maintains his innocence. He was released on a $25,000 bond.

Gov. Deal announced Tuesday that he had signed an executive order suspending Ellis because the felony criminal charges “adversely affect his ability to carry out his duties as DeKalb CEO.” A three-person panel recommended the suspension and Deal agreed.

“The responsibility to suspend and replace elected officials is one that I do not relish, but one I will not shy away from,” said Deal. “The laws of Georgia give the governor the authority to appoint an interim official, but with my appointment, I will respect the spirit of the local statute, which calls for the commission chairman to succeed the CEO should the office come open. I gave this appointment thoughtful consideration and I was looking for a leader who had already won approval from DeKalb voters and knows how the county operates. The new CEO meets these criteria, and I thank him for his willingness to serve.”

 Ellis was forced out of his position immediately.

“While I was disappointed in the panel’s recommendation to suspend, I respect the governor’s decision, and will devote my time and attention to fighting these spurious charges,” said Ellis.

The Indictments:

Ellis faces felony criminal charges stemming from alleged efforts to use his power in office to help solicit political contributions for his re-election.

Among the 15 counts in the indictment, Ellis faces two counts for allegedly attempting to extort campaign contributions from an employee at CIBER Inc., an IT consulting firm in Decatur. The indictment alleges that Ellis threatened to withhold county contracts from the firm if the employee didn’t make a donation.

He also faces four counts for similar alleged extortion attempts against Power and Energy Services, Inc., a generator maintenance and repair firm that had been trying to sell equipment to DeKalb.

He faces two counts of criminal attempts to commit false statements and writings after allegedly asking Kevin Walton, DeKalb’s director of purchasing and contracting, to say a contractor didn’t return calls about county business. According to the indictment, the business of those calls was a solicitation for donations.

He also faces two counts of theft by taking and two more for theft of government services for allegedly telling Walton and other county employees during work hours to create campaign contribution prospect lists by using contractor records with information on the money they were making from work in DeKalb and notes from DeKalb County Commission meetings. According to the indictment, Ellis allegedly told Walton to deliver the list to him at his offices at R.L. Brown Associates.

The Replacement:

 Gov. Deal appointed DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May to replace Ellis as Interim CEO of DeKalb County.

 May, a DeKalb Democrat who has sometimes been at odds with Ellis, will remain Interim CEO until Ellis’ term ends in 2016 unless the former CEO is acquitted.

 “Some people are congratulating me and some are giving me condolences,” May said during a press conference this week. “I’m just honored to be in this position, and with God’s strength, we are going to move this county forward.”

May has a Master’s of Divinity degree. In 2006, he became the youngest person ever elected to the DeKalb County Commission. He ran and won at age 30. May has since served as the commission’s budget chairman and has argued with Ellis over budgeting and taxes.

The businessman faced bankruptcies from his failed attempts to run a Lithonia movie theater.

What’s Next:

 Ellis has been removed from his position to focus on his criminal charges. He has a high-profile defense attorney, J. Tom Morgan, former District Attorney of DeKalb County.

Ellis was suspended from his job as DeKalb CEO with pay. He will still receive his $150,000 –a-year salary unless he is convicted.

 “Once vindicated, I look forward to returning to the office the people of DeKalb County elected me to serve,” said Ellis.