After being hit with a 15-count indictment from a DeKalb grand jury and checking in and out of the county’s jail, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis professed his innocence.
“I do want to make one statement emphatically to the good people of DeKalb County that I’ve done nothing wrong as I’ve said from the very beginning. Done nothing wrong and I would never, ever, ever do anything to violate the public trust,” Ellis said on Tuesday night outside of his home.
On what he said was the advice of his attorneys, he would not speak to the charges specifically.
Ellis was indicted Tuesday on 15 counts by a grand jury, including 14 felonies. He faces 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 alleges that Ellis tried to extort campaign contributions from companies like CIBER Inc. and their employees and threatened to withhold county business from those that didn’t contribute to his campaign.
DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May released a statement Tuesday in response to the indictment.
“This is a sad day for DeKalb County. While every person is clearly innocent until proven guilty, this ongoing saga has been a distraction and continues to bring unwelcome negative publicity to our county and government” said Commissioner May.
“Like all citizens of DeKalb, I pray that there will be a quick resolution to these issues,” May added. “Regardless of the accusations of corruption in the CEO’s office, my fellow Commissioners and I are committed to keeping our focus on our duties and responsibilities as public servants. We remain steadfast in our commitment to bringing a better future to DeKalb County.”
Simply being charged with the felonies could lead to Ellis being removed from office, said DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader. Gov. Nathan Deal, who has already removed members of the county’s school board and formed an advisory committee to look into removing State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, could form a similar committee to review removing Ellis from his job.
DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader said the law requires Gov. Nathan Deal to form an advisory committee headed by Attorney General Sam Olens.
If the committee, which would be headed by Attorney General Sam Olens, recommends suspension and the governor implements it, then Commission Chairman Lee May would step in as acting CEO until Ellis either resigns or is cleared or convicted in court.
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.