ATLANTA (WAOK/AJC) – DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis has been indicted by a DeKalb grand jury today on charges he illegally pressured contractors into giving him campaign contributions.
The 15-count indictment includes 14 felonies. Among them, four counts of extortion, two counts of theft by taking and several conspiracy charges.
DeKalb District Attorney Robert James, in an afternoon news conference, said Ellis is charged with extortion and other felonies for soliciting campaign contributions under threat.
The indictment, as read by James, says Ellis extorted CIBER Inc., a vendor in DeKalb, by threating a local manager. The indictment says Ellis threatened to tell CIBER’s CEO the local manager, Joanne Wise, delivered poor customer service if she did not agree to a campaign contribution. The indictment said Ellis acted similarly with other vendors and used DeKalb employees to draft lists of contractors doing business with DeKalb for the purpose of extorting them for campaign cash.
The indictment was returned even as a lawsuit brought by a member of a special purpose grand jury was trying to force DeKalb County Judge Mark Anthony Scott, who was overseeing the special purpose grand jury, to release their report on the investigation that possibly led to the indictment.
It was not immediately known if that report was made public.
For a year, the grand jury investigated possible corruption in the county water and sewer department contracts and eventually it led to search warrants being executed at Ellis’ home and office and at the home and of attorney Kevin Ross, the CEO’s former campaign manager.
Ross was not indicted. None of the companies named in the search warrants were included in Tuesday’s indictment.
Here are the charges against Ellis:
Count 1 – Criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion. Between Feb 17, 2012 and March 21, 2012, attempted to commit theft by extortion. As public official to obtain campaign contribution, Cyber Inc. and JoAnne Wise, threatening to take and withhold action to prevent Cyber Inc. from receiving business from DeKalb. And to end its business with DeKalb after Wise did not respond to demand for money and to say they would not contribute.
Count 2 — Ellis threatened to hurt her reputation if she did not contribute to his campaign.
Count 3 — On June 25, 2012 tried to extort campaign contribution Power and Energy Services. Brandon Cummings did not respond to requests for contribution and after was told Power and Energy would not contribute.
Count 4 — Sept. 25 2012 – Conspiracy with Kevin Walton director of purchasing for unreasonable restraint of trade. Told Walton to prevent work for Power and Energy.
Counts six and seven – Ellis put notes in files that Power and Electric did not return phone calls.
Count 8 — Theft by taking services – ordered Walton to use DeKalb Board meeting agendas and contracting information to create a list of vendors awarded contracts to include contact information so could use vendor list to solicit contributions.
Count 9 — For delivery of the lists for Walton during working hours to R.L. Brown and Associates to make calls
Count 10 – Conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision. Theft of property using Kelvin Walton and three others. Told Walton during normal working hours to use board of commissioner meeting agendas and data to create lists of vendors to use for soliciting campaign contributions.
Click here to listen to news conference with Dekalb County District Attorney Robert James