Recently reelected DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted Tuesday on 15 counts by a grand jury. The indictment alleges that Ellis tried to extort campaign contributions from companies and their employees and threatened to withhold county business from those that didn’t contribute to his campaign.
Of the 15 counts listed in the indictment 14 are felonies, including four counts of extortion, two counts of theft by taking and several conspiracy charges, said DeKalb District Attorney Robert James during an afternoon news conference.
The indictment, as read by James, says Ellis extorted CIBER Inc., a vendor in DeKalb, by threatening a local manager. It says Ellis threatened to tell CIBER’s CEO that the local manager, Joanne Wise, delivered poor customer service if she did not agree to a campaign contribution.
In another case, Ellis allegedly threatened to withhold county business from Power and Energy Services, Inc., after an employee didn’t respond to his campaign contribution requests and didn’t give money. According to the indictment, he then instructed the director of purchasing and contracting not to give the company any more work and to put a note in its file saying the firm didn’t return phone calls.
The indictment goes on to say that Ellis had county workers compiling lists during working hours of companies that had contracts so he could solicit campaign contributions.
Below are the charges facing Ellis from the grand jury:
Count 1 – Criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion. Between Feb 17, 2012 and March 21, 2012, attempted to commit theft by extortion. As public official to obtain campaign contribution, Cyber Inc. and JoAnne Wise, threatening to take and withhold action to prevent Cyber Inc. from receiving business from DeKalb. And to end its business with DeKalb after Wise did not respond to demand for money and to say they would not contribute.
Count 2 — Ellis threatened to hurt her reputation if she did not contribute to his campaign.
Count 3 — On June 25, 2012 tried to extort campaign contribution Power and Energy Services. Brandon Cummings did not respond to requests for contribution and after was told Power and Energy would not contribute.
Count 4 — Sept. 25 2012 – Conspiracy with Kevin Walton director of purchasing for unreasonable restraint of trade. Told Walton to prevent work for Power and Energy.
Counts six and seven – Ellis put notes in files that Power and Electric did not return phone calls.
Count 8 — Theft by taking services – ordered Walton to use DeKalb Board meeting agendas and contracting information to create a list of vendors awarded contracts to include contact information so could use vendor list to solicit contributions.
Count 9 — For delivery of the lists for Walton during working hours to R.L. Brown and Associates to make calls
Count 10 – Conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision.
Theft of property using Kelvin Walton and three others. Told Walton during normal working hours to use board of commissioner meeting agendas and data to create lists of vendors to use for soliciting campaign contributions.
Ellis’ indictment comes just months after Gov. Nathan Deal removed five DeKalb school board members for mismanagement.
The office of county Commissioner Elaine Boyer said the commissioners were meeting individually with the county attorney for briefings on the situation and to determine what their next steps should be.