While serving as DeKalb County’s CEO, Burrell Ellis set the rules on how to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on contracts. He also could change those rules at any time.
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A special grand jury investigation into allegations of kickbacks and bid rigging in DeKalb County contracts helped lead to the indictment of CEO Burrell Ellis. Its report also calls for a shake-up of county government to eliminate what it found was a culture of corruption. Among recommendations:
- Eliminating the CEO form of government in favor of a full-time commission that hires/fires a professional manager. Status: In discussion for inclusion with the county’s legislative wish list, though state lawmakers who would need to change the county charter have been reluctant to take up the battle.
- Granting the County Commission the ability to adopt local laws governing purchasing decisions. That power is now vested entirely with the chief executive but is not enshrined in law. Status: Local and state officials have agreed to award that power to the commission, and the effort will likely pass in the upcoming legislative session.
- Dropping the current seven-member ethics board in favor of a full-time ethics officer to oversee complaints about rule violations by elected officials and department heads. Status: The current ethics board is requesting additional funding to hire investigators to help with its work, though the County Commission has yet to vote on the request.
- Eliminating a purchasing program that gives special consideration for locally owned, often minority-run, small businesses. Status: Interim CEO Lee May and a majority of the commission have voiced support for keeping the program but are reviewing changes as part of an overall audit of county purchasing rules.