Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis and former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones sat down together to discuss politics, the future of DeKalb, their personal accomplishments and even some of the trying times they’ve faced.
The first two African-American CEOs of DeKalb County, who have had their share of disagreements in the past, spoke congenially during a radio talk show that Jones hosted on WAOK (1380 AM).
The Dec. 20 radio interview was the first time in months that Ellis talked publicly about being CEO since he was indicted on corruption charges by a grand jury last summer and suspended from office by Gov. Nathan Deal. The governor appointed the Board of Commissioners’ presiding officer, Lee May, as interim DeKalb CEO.
Attorney Dwight Thomas said Jones asked his client to be a guest on the show and Ellis accepted the invitation. But on the advice of his legal counsel, Ellis did not discuss his pending court case. Ellis’ attorneys are scheduled for court on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24.
“I thought that it was appropriate for CEO Ellis to discuss his viewpoints about the county’s future and other issues. He is still the elected CEO of DeKalb, and as the CEO, he is still relevant,” Thomas said.
While Ellis did not discuss his court case, he did make a reference to it, reiterating he has committed no wrongdoing.
“It is unfortunate that someone or some have targeted me and decided to take out a political vendetta against me, in order to move me aside,” Ellis said. “We are looking forward to full vindication. We are standing on God’s word… I want the people to know I look forward to the day of returning to the office that they elected me to serve.”
Jones told Ellis that he understands what he’s going through.
“I know what it’s like to be falsely accused, to be completely exonerated and vindicated. They do it sometimes just to taint you, knowing that it’s a bunch of foolishness anyhow,” said Jones.
Ellis’ attorneys fight to quash indictment
Burrell Ellis’ team of attorneys are preparing for DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson to hear several motions on Jan. 23 and 24. Attorney Dwight Thomas said the court proceeding is scheduled for 9 a.m.
Ellis’ attorneys want Judge Johnson to dismiss the indictment or disqualify District Attorney Robert James’ office from trying Ellis’ case.
Ellis was indicted last June on charges that he used county workers to solicit contributions for his election campaign. Ellis is accused of threatening to withhold contracts from county vendors who did not give.
But Ellis’ attorneys say James and Lee May essentially did the same thing when they had county workers to solicit money for an event they jointly hosted for senior citizens.
Ellis’ attorneys say in the motions that James and May, who was a commissioner at the time, worked together on a Senior Ball, which was held on June 8, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
They used eight county employees to contact vendors on a county list and coordinate the event. Candace Franklin, a political fundraiser, was also contacted to help solicit money from vendors and companies who conduct business with DeKalb County. The Senior Ball was funded with $25,500 in contributions raised from vendors and companies on the county list.
“It is abundantly clear that DA James entered into a conspiracy with Commissioner May to commit theft of property in DeKalb County,” the motion says. “In essence, DA James and Commissioner May used DeKalb County’s personnel and money for self-promotion.”
“The 2013 Senior Ball was actually a thinly veiled formal political affair hosted by DA Robert James and his political ally, Commissioner Lee May to advance and promote their political agendas…,” the motion states.
Erik Burton, a spokesman for the DA, said James had no comment about the motions.
May also said he had no comment on the motions.
“That’s a legal matter that doesn’t involve me. I’m focused on doing my job—running the county. I didn’t ask for this position. What I want to do is what I’ve been asked to do: move the county forward,” May said.
May, as presiding officer of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve as interim CEO. The governor suspended Ellis while he fights charges against him. May will hold the office until a decision is reached in court.
If Ellis is found innocent, he would return to office and May would return to his seat on the Board of Commissioners.