|Operation LEAD, supporters condemn D.A. raids on DeKalb CEO|
|Written by Valerie J. Morgan|
Supporters are rallying around DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis in the wake of the District Attorney’s recent raids on his home and offices.
District Attorney Robert James has declined to say what the probe concerns, but investigators have asked for records from the county’s Purchasing Department for the contracts of companies represented by Kevin Ross, Ellis’ close friend and former campaign manager.
Authorities also have been investigating allegations of corruption, bid rigging and kickbacks in DeKalb’s Watershed Management Department since last year. The Special Grand Jury empanelled to serve is expected to present its findings very soon. Its one-year term on the case expires Jan. 18.
“Operation Lead (Civil, Human and Legal Rights Organization) strongly condemns and stands firmly in opposition to the raid of the home of CEO Burrell Ellis, and calls upon District Attorney Robert James to publicly explain this publicly damning raid on the home of the highest elected official in DeKalb County,” said John Evans, president of the DeKalb organization.
Evans said he is especially appalled that the Jan. 7 raid on Ellis’ home in Stone Mountain was conducted while the CEO’s 83-year-old mother was present. She answered the door the morning police served the search warrants. Ellis was testifying before a special grand jury when the raids took place. Residents said television crews were outside his home as investigators raided the house. Helicopters were flying overhead the community as the drama unfolded.
“If the county’s highest elected leader is treated like a drug lord or common street criminal by the district attorney’s office, what kind of treatment can the average citizen expect?” Evans demanded. “His roughshod handling of the county’s highest elected leader was appalling, and he needs to answer for it or face the immediate wrath of the voters and citizens of DeKalb County. You cannot disrespect the image of our county in this manner and get away with it.”
Ellis maintains no wrongdoing, said Burke Brennan, county spokesperson.
“He is conducting county business as usual,” said Brennan.
“I haven’t done anything that I’m aware of, nor has my staff done anything that’s inappropriate,” Ellis said during a press conference he held after the raids. “I’ve wracked my brain. I can’t imagine anything in my home or my office that would raise any eyebrows…”
“We believe in him (Ellis) and we are supporting him,” said Tom Coleman, a resident of the Southland. “I don’t know if the D.A. is right or wrong. We just don’t like the way the raids were conducted with the media in here rolling the cameras the way they did. I’m sure the D.A. does raids all of the time without the media camped out the way they were camped out here. We don’t feel that was right.”
Coleman, who served on Ellis’ transition team when he was elected for his first term, said it seemed that the raid at Ellis’ home was “staged.”
“How did the media know there was going to be a raid?” Coleman asked.
Another Ellis supporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he didn’t want to get caught up in the fray between the District Attorney and the CEO, but felt it was important to show his support.
“They are very vindictive at the county. If they treated him (Ellis) that way, there’s no telling what they would do to an ordinary citizen,” the resident said.
Evans said he is disturbed the raids have further tarnished DeKalb’s image. DeKalb’s former schools superintendent, Crawford Lewis, is facing corruption and racketeering charges. A similar raid took place at Lewis’ home and offices. He lives in the same community as Ellis and has said he is innocent. His trial is scheduled April 15.
“Not even in Gwinnett County, which is knee-deep in corruption, have we seen Gestapo-like tactics such as these conducted by a district attorney,” Evans said. “Accused or not, we expect the citizens of our county to be treated with fairness and dignity.If they are not, we will have to work to see that fairness and dignity happens in our county.