Court docs reveal more about Burrell Ellis hearings

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

A special grand jury has been looking into allegations of bribery and bid rigging, in DeKalb County's Watershed Department and other county contract irregularities. There has also been a recent focus on the County CEO, Burrell Ellis.
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

Court documents newly obtained by Channel 2 Action News show details from secret court hearings involving DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.

Ellis has been one of the subjects of an ongoing investigation into public corruption in the county. He has made attempts to keep a special grand jury report sealed until his attorneys can look at them first. The new court documents reveal more about those attempts, as well as the District Attorney's Office's attempts to get that report released to the public.

The special grand jury was called into session to look into allegations of corruption inside DeKalb County's Watershed Management Department, but after a year, that investigation expanded to include public corruption allegations in other departments.

Even though the special grand jury completed its service, the report still has not been released.  At a hearing in which the media was barred access, Ellis' attorneys, along with attorneys for his former campaign manager Kevin Ross, argued they should be allowed to see the grand jury report before it was released. They claim DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James' office used the special civil grand jury to help gather evidence for a separate criminal investigation.

James’ office denied that claim and said the public should get the first crack at what's contained in that still-sealed grand jury report.  Channel 2 Action News has learned through those newly obtained court documents that the grand jury conducted a year-long investigation involving nearly 10,000 documents and 40 days of sworn testimony.  The grand jury foreman said they sent the 81-page report to the judge a month ago, but it still has not been released.

Judge Mark Anthony Scott did not release the report and instead has held secret hearings.  In the first hearing, defense attorneys were very concerned about the presence of the media.

"I believe somebody told me that Channel 2 was already out there," one defense attorney is quoted in the court transcript.  "I wonder how they found out about that."

In a subsequent hearing in which the media was not allowed, the judge defended his initial decision to allow Ellis' attorneys to see the report before the public, saying, "His professional reputation is at stake."

The District Attorney's Office has filed an appeal, but the Court of Appeals has not ruled on it yet.