As DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis went into campaign mode in November 2011, he had concerns: Months earlier, the county had passed a steep property tax hike. Commissioners were often siding against him. And there was growing talk about doing away with his job — by dumping DeKalb’s unique CEO-style of government.
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The case against Ellis
A DeKalb County grand jury indicted CEO Burrell Ellis on 15 criminal counts last week, 14 of them felonies. The charges include theft, conspiracy and extortion. Ellis has yet to enter a plea, but he told reporters last week shortly after the indictment was announced that he is not guilty. Below is what the indictment alleges.
- Prosecutors allege in two counts that Ellis threatened to withhold county business from the IT vendor CIBER Inc. after an employee said she and the firm would not contribute to Ellis’ election campaign. One charge claims Ellis told the worker he would report that she provided poor customer service if she did not give.
- Five counts accuse Ellis of making sure Power and Energy Services, an Austell equipment sales and service company, did not receive work with DeKalb after the owners and an employee either did not respond to campaign solicitations or declined to give. Two charges claim Ellis instructed the county’s purchasing director to write a false note in the company’s file, describing them as non-responsive to explain why they no longer received contracts.
- Five counts allege that Ellis ordered the purchasing director and department staffers to compile a list of county vendors for his use in campaign calls. Theft and fraud charges refer to stealing the workers’ time — on taxpayers’ dime — to do the work, as well as deliver the list to an off-site office. Two coercion charges claim Ellis forced those who worked for him to help with his political efforts.
- Three counts accuse Ellis of directing the purchasing director to stop honoring a contract with real estate firm National Property Institute of Ellenwood after the company did not give to his campaign. The counts also allege that Ellis ordered the county’s community development director to arrange a meeting with the firm over the lack of donations.
Residence: Stone Mountain
Occupation: Two-term DeKalb County CEO, first elected in 2008. The former partner at the law firm Epstein Becker Green also served two terms as a DeKalb commissioner.
Education: Undergraduate degree from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Law degree from the University of Texas.
Family: Married to Philippa Ellis, a lawyer. They have twins.
Happy memory: In a 2009 story, Ellis recounted getting married four days after the Sept. 11 attacks. After the ceremony, the couple rode down Peachtree Street in a horse-drawn carriage, and people noticed. “They started applauding because it gave people a sense of normalcy,” he said.