Tuesday, June 18, 2013

DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis indicted, accused of pressuring contractors for campaign donations (Update)

Posted By and on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 5:01 PM

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James
  • Max Blau
  • DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted today by a grand jury on 15 counts that accuse the elected official of trying to pressure county contractors for campaign contributions, among other allegations.

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James read the indictment to reporters this afternoon but declined to answer any questions. The charges include theft by taking, conspiracy to commit theft by extortion, conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision, criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion, and criminal attempts to commit false statements and writings, among others.

James said that a warrant for Ellis' arrest has been issued and that the CEO has between 24 and 48 hours to turn himself into authorities. He added that Ellis' bond is set at $25,000.

According to the indictment, Ellis is accused of threatening to withhold - and instructing public employees to withhold - county contracts from several companies that did not agree to make a contribution to his political campaign. In one instance, Ellis allegedly told an executive that he would inform her superior that she provided "poor customer service" and was the reason the company did not win the contract - and would not receive any additional work - in the hope it would convince her to give a campaign contribution.

The indictment also says Ellis would solicit campaign contributions from certain contractors and, if they did not write a check, direct Kelvin Walton, the county's chief of purchasing, to insert a note in one company's file claiming that the firm "do not return phone calls." Walton is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Regarding the three theft by taking charges, the indictment claims that Ellis not only committed alleged acts of extortion and false statements, but also in effect stole his employees' "time and services" from the county by ordering them to help with these tasks during business hours. That included allegedly ordering Walton to draw up a list of county contractors, the value of their contracts, and contact information - and to deliver that list to Ellis at the offices of R.L. Brown and Associates during working hours - so the elected official could call and hit them up for contributions.

The 15 criminal counts against Ellis date back several months to when the CEO's office and Stone Mountain home were raided by Dekalb County authorities in January as part of a special grand jury investigation into the county's watershed department. At the time, Ellis denied engaging in any inappropriate behavior.

James spokesman Erik Burton told reporters after the press conference that the DA would likely not comment on the charges until around the time of the arraignment.

We've reached out to Ellis for comment. Prior to the press conference, his spokeswoman told WSB-TV that the CEO was meeting with his attorneys.

The indictment follows after the jump.

UPDATE, 10:50 p.m.: Ellis turned himself into the DeKalb County Jail soon after his indictment. He has since bonded out of jail and made a statement to reporters.

"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," he said. "I've done nothing wrong and I would never, ever, ever do anything to violate the public trust."

Ellis declined to answer any further questions.

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