Even as DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis tried to put a business-as-usual face on his activities Wednesday, Tuesday’s 15-count indictment could push him from running the day-to-day activities of Georgia’s third largest county even before his case is tried.
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Burrell Ellis - DeKalb County’s chief elected officer, Ellis holds a post similar to a strong mayor in large jurisdictions, running nearly all of the daily business of Georgia’s third-largest county. A former County Commissioner and real estate attorney, Ellis was first elected to CEO in 2008 and is now in his second term. He became a public target of a political corruption case in January, when investigators from the District Attorney’s office searched his home and office and seized campaign records and county contracts. The results of that investigation remain under seal. The DA unveiled a 15-count indictment on separate accusations this week.
Robert James - DeKalb County’s District Attorney since 2011, James cites a stint as an elementary school paraprofessional in a poor area of Atlanta as pushing him into prosecution. He is a former prosecutor in DeKalb and Rockdale counties who spent four years as DeKalb’s solicitor. In his short tenure, James has taken the lead in prosecuting Hemy Neuman for killing Rusty Sneiderman and is now working to convict the widow, Andrea, who maintains she was not involved in the murder. He is expected to lead the prosecution of Ellis on the 14 felonies and one misdemeanor he now faces.
Nathan Deal - A Democrat-turned Republican, Deal spent nine terms in Congress before being elected Georgia’s governor in 2010. He has since made it clear he does not relish stepping into local affairs. However, once the indictments reach his office, Deal must appoint a three-member panel to review whether Ellis can stay in office. He will have final say on whether to suspend Ellis if the panel supports that move.
Lee May - The son of a pastor, May became the youngest person elected to DeKalb County Commission when he was first elected at 30 years old in 2006. May holds a master’s of divinity degree but is better known for a series of bankruptcies that stem in part from his failed effort to run a movie theater near Lithonia. May has said his struggles help him understand taxpayers’ financial woes as the head of the commission’s budget committee. As the commission’s presiding officer since January, county law dictates May would take over as CEO until a special election could be held if the executive is removed from office.
DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, now that he has been criminally charged, will have to appear in court to be formally presented with the charges against him. He has the option of waiving that hearing.
Visit ajc.com and myajc.com for breaking news on the criminal case against Ellis.
A DeKalb County grand jury indicted CEO Burrell Ellis on 15 criminal counts on Tuesday, 14 of them felonies.
The charges facing DeKalb’s top elected official include theft, conspiracy and extortion:
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, 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 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.