A DeKalb County grand jury indicted CEO Burrell Ellis on Tuesday.
DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced the charges listed in a 15-count indictment at an afternoon news conference. The charges include theft, extortion, false statements and writings, conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision and coercion of other employee to give anything of value for political purposes.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Ellis, and he has up to 48 hours to turn himself in. His bond is being set at $25,000.
According to the indictment, Ellis asked the county’s director of purchasing and contracting to create a list of vendors with county contracts, so Ellis could solicit campaign contributions from them. It said Ellis threatened to cut business ties with vendors and report at least one employee for poor customer service after there was no response to his solicitations.
Earlier this year, agents took computers and other evidence from Ellis’ Stone Mountain home and county office. The district attorney’s office was also looking into campaign financial records.
At the time, Ellis denied any wrongdoing.
“I haven’t done anything that I’m aware of and nor has my staff done anything that I’m aware of that’s inappropriate,” Ellis said.
Ellis has not yet publicly commented on the indictment. On Tuesday evening, his representative told Channel 2 Action News, “We just learned about this news as well (and) will be talking to the CEO’s attorneys, and we will let you know when there is a statement to be released.”
Ellis could be potentially removed from office as a result of the indictment. Gov. Nathan Deal’s office told Channel 2′s Erica Byfield the governor will receive the indictment and assemble a three-person panel to review the case. Based on the panel’s recommendation, the governor may remove Ellis. In that case, the county commission’s presiding officer, Lee May, would become the interim CEO.
“This is a sad day for DeKalb County. While every person is clearly innocent until proven guilty, this ongoing saga has been a distraction and continues to bring unwelcome negative publicity to our county and government,” May said.