The findings of a yearlong investigation into allegations of bid rigging and kickbacks in DeKalb County contracts, made public for the first time late Wednesday, allege a culture of corruption that spans two administrations and runs from the top job in Georgia’s third-largest county down to workers and contractors in the watershed department.
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There is no legal requirement for any government agency to act on the recommendations from a yearlong probe into DeKalb County contracts. However, action appears likely on the two main recommendations.
More investigations, indictments. The DeKalb District Attorney’s Office has said in court arguments that the report is the basis for several “ongoing criminal investigations” and additional indictments are expected.
Debate over ditching the CEO form of government. The call for a change to DeKalb’s CEO-Board of Commission structure has already been taken up by interim CEO Lee May. May expects a proposal to abolish the CEO job will be a priority on the county’s legislative wish list, to be taken up by state lawmakers when the Legislature convenes early next year.
Ellis goes on trial. The 15-count indictment against Ellis accusing him of extortion and theft will likely go to trial.
More corruption allegations
A DeKalb special-purpose grand jury investigating contracting in the county’s water department and beyond recommended criminal charges for former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis and criminal investigations for other top DeKalb administrators. Ellis has been charged with a crime. He has pleaded not guilty.
Former CEO Burrell Ellis
Ellis, who served as CEO from 2004 until his suspension in July, has been charged with 15 counts of attempted extortion, theft and conspiracy stemming from allegations that he strong-armed contractors into giving to his campaign. The grand jury investigation says Ellis engaged in bid-rigging by steering contracts to preferred companies.
Former CEO Vernon Jones
Served as CEO between 2000 and 2008. The report claims Jones may have used his office to engage in bid-rigging. It recommends a criminal investigation.
Former public safety director William ‘Wiz” Miller
The report recommends a criminal obstruction-of-justice investigation into allegations that Miller halted a DeKalb police investigation into bid-rigging.
Former chief of staff Jabari Simama
Simama, who served as chief of staff under Ellis, is accused in the report of manipulating the committees that award contracts. The report recommends a criminal investigation into possible bid-rigging.
Former Ellis campaign manager Kevin Ross
Ross ran Ellis’ first campaign for CEO, and the report accused him of using his influence in the administration to steer contracts to clients he represented. The report recommends a criminal investigation into possible bid-rigging.
Looking out for you. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has followed the special-purpose grand jury investigation into DeKalb contracting for more than a year. In an effort to bring transparency to the investigation, the AJC and its reporting partner Channel 2 Action News on Wednesday urged DeKalb Judge Gregory Adams to release the report. It had been under seal since January. The AJC will continue reporting in-depth on the investigation into DeKalb contracting and advocating for transparency.