|DeKalb CEO Ellis announces top team will represent him in D.A. probe|
|Written by Valerie J. Morgan|
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis announced today that he is hiring a legal defense team in the wake of District Attorney Robert James’ corruption probe into county contracts. Ellis’ announcement came as news reports surfaced that certain vendors who contributed to his election campaign earned millions in county contracts since he took office.
In addition to Ellis, the District Attorney’s warrants served on Jan. 7 target Kevin Ross, Ellis’ friend and former campaign manager. Ross represented several of the companies that are under investigation in the probe.
Ellis presented his legal counsel at a press conference today. The team includes federal prosecutors Craig Gillen and Anthony Lake of the Atlanta law firm of Gillen, Withers & Lake; former DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan and John Petrey, who served under Morgan’s administration. The lead attorney is Gillen. Ellis said he would pay for his legal representation—not the county, said county spokesman Burke Brennan.
Ellis reiterated today that he has done nothing wrong and said that he has cooperated fully with the District Attorney. He said he testified twice before a special grand jury over the last year, answering questions that mainly had to do with how county contracts are let.
“I want to say emphatically that I have done nothing wrong and that we’re proud of the work we have done in DeKalb County,” said Ellis, who also thanked “hundreds” of supporters he said had e-mailed or sent him letters. Several supporters also have put up yard signs bearing his name.
With regard to the District Attorney, Ellis said he questioned whether James has been operating in good faith and integrity concerning him. Ellis’ attorneys accused James of lying or misleading him concerning what the investigation is really about. The attorneys criticized James for contacting the media ahead of time about the raids conducted on Ellis’ home and office.
James has declined to discuss the investigation while the probe is still under way.
Meanwhile, former District Attorney J. Tom Morgan said Ellis has never promised favors in exchange for campaign support.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong, nothing improper, nothing unethical, nothing immoral nothing illegal for a candidate to receive support from a vendor doing business with DeKalb County. Just as there’s nothing improper, immoral, illegal for a district attorney to receive campaign contributions from criminal defense attorneys who have cases pending in his office,” said Morgan. “People who do business with the government often support candidates who are in government services because they want politicians who will do the right thing and will do us fair.”