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.