The star witness in the political corruption case against suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis may well be … Burrell Ellis.
Evidence disclosures filed late Friday, obtained exclusively by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, show DeKalb District Attorney Robert James has more than 1,450 audio files — potentially hundreds of hours of conversations secretly recorded between Ellis and others, as well as others about Ellis — to support his allegations that Ellis shook down county vendors for campaign contributions and punished those who did not give.
Only the list of 37 potential witnesses, including many of those vendors and top-level county workers, has been made public, according to court filings. The actual recordings — including 28 DVDs and CDs and a flash drive needed to hold 1,452 audio files and 204 other recordings — were given only to Ellis’ defense team and will not come out until trial.
James declined to comment about the evidence. Jeff Dickerson, a spokesman for the Ellis defense team, said Monday that the attorneys were listening to the files and would also have no comment.
But to members of a special grand jury, who listened to some of the recordings, those calls indicated that the way to do business with DeKalb was to donate to the political campaign of Ellis, who ran daily government operations as CEO.
The report by the grand jury, which spent a year investigating county contracting, called for a criminal investigation of Ellis and a dozen others. What followed was a second grand jury that issued an indictment alleging that they pressured county vendors to contribute to Ellis’ campaign fund or face “punitive” loss of county business.
The special grand jury completed its work in January, but the report did not become public until August, a month after Ellis was indicted on 14 felony counts and one misdemeanor charge of bribery, extortion and conspiracy.
Ellis, who has since been suspended from office, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
The list of witnesses includes many of the same people and companies listed in Ellis’ indictment.
Among them: Brandon Cummings, the co-owner of a Cobb County energy firm who, according to the indictment and report, had just won a DeKalb contract when Ellis called in 2012 and asked for the maximum campaign donation of $2,500.
Cummings was able to beg off the call by saying he needed to talk to his wife, Danice. But the report says that when Ellis called back the next day, one of the company’s employees, Eneida Robles, told him that the company had decided not to give. Ellis, according to the report, said, “Oh, so you are not interested in doing work in DeKalb County?”
Cummings, his wife and Robles are on the witness list, as are representatives from the two other firms named in the indictment, the National Property Institute and CIBER Inc.
Other would-be witnesses could testify concerning those allegations of shakedowns and other accusations that Ellis interfered in the county’s bidding process by deciding which staff members would sit on panels reviewing bids by campaign contributors and ordering that bids go to clients of his political consultant, Kevin Ross.
They include high-level employees such as the county’s purchasing director and head of community development — both of whom are named in the indictment as witnesses in the intimidation of the firms.
Other witnesses include those who worked closely with Ellis, including his personal administrative assistant, the aide who maintained his schedule, a legislative liaison and two people who served separate tenures as his chief of staff.
The first hearing in the case is set for Oct. 17.
LIST OF WITNESSES
1. Joel Alvarado — former county employee, working as legislative liaison for CEO Burrell Ellis
2. AT&T custodian of records (no name)
3. John Banke — civilian witness, no affiliation listed
4. Joe Basista — former county employee, director of watershed management under CEO Burrell Ellis
5. Alita Bowman — county worker, administrative assistant, DeKalb County Purchasing Department
6. Erica Brooks — county worker, formerly special projects assistant to Chief of Staff JIbari Simama under indicted CEO Burrell Ellis
7. Yolanda Broome — county worker, DeKalb County Purchasing Department
8. Lisa Chang — former county employee, county attorney under CEO Burrell Ellis
9. Comcast custodian of records (no name)
10. Brenda Cornelius — owner, Cornelius Group, county vendor under CEO Burrell Ellis
11. Natascha Crenshaw — former county employee, Purchasing Department, named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
12. Brandon Cummings — wwner, Power and Energy Services, county vendor named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
13. Danice Cummings — owner, Power and Energy Services, county vendor named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
14. Jive Communications custodian of records (no name)
15. Sprint Communications custodian of records (no name)
16. Maxine Davis — current director, DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections
17. DeKalb County Information Technology Department custodian of records (no name)
18. Michael Graves — civilian witness, Osiris Studio
19. Nina Hall — former county employee, administrative assistant for indicted CEO Burrell Ellis
20. Hakim Hilliard — former county employee, chief of staff for indicted CEO Burrell Ellis
21. Jackie Huff — contract assistant, DeKalb Purchasing Department, named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
22. Imani Husbands-Marley — contract assistant, DeKalb Purchasing Department, named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
23. Tracy Hutchinson — manager, DeKalb County Sanitation
24. Rena Johnson — civilian witness, no affiliation listed
25. Holly LaBerge — executive director, Georgia ethics commission
26. Adeline Mathes — civilian witness, no affiliation listed
27. Chris Morris — DeKalb County director of community development, named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
28. W. Clay Nix — Former investigator, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
29. David Plisko — civilian witness, no affiliation listed
30. Eneida Robles — employee, Power and Energy Services, county vendor named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
31. Sharma — worker, last name unknown, in R.A. Brown & Associates, firm named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
32. Greg Shealey — officer, National Property Institute, county vendor named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
33. Trina Shealey — vice president, National Property Institute, county vendor named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
34. Jabari Simama — former county employee, chief of staff for indicted CEO Burrell Ellis
35. Kelvin Walton — DeKalb County director of purchasing, named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis
36. Karen Williams — county worker, maintained CEO’s schedule under CEO Burrell Ellis
37. Joanne Wise — former employee, CIBER Inc., county vendor named in indictment against CEO Burrell Ellis