Ellis a no-show for meeting with sanitation workers

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Since breaking the news of the indictment against DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, Channel 2 Action News has been looking for opportunities to question him about it.

Channel 2's Aaron Diamant thought he'd get the chance Thursday at the county sanitation headquarters where Ellis was supposed to meet with workers.

Ellis was scheduled to answer workers' questions about a planned pay raise and benefits changes. But nearly a half-hour into the meeting, no Ellis.

His public affairs chief, Jill Strickland, suddenly arrived.

"Is the CEO coming?" Diamant asked Strickland.

"That's what I need to find out, because I'm supposed to be here at 1:30, so I'm not sure if he got delayed inside the meeting or what's going on," Strickland said.

On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted Ellis on 15 counts, including extortion, theft and conspiracy.

Prosecutors said Ellis shook down and threatened county vendors for campaign contributions in exchange keeping for lucrative county contracts.

Ellis' only public statement came just hours later.

"I do want to make one statement emphatically to the good people of DeKalb, that I've done nothing wrong," Ellis said Tuesday night.

And on Wednesday Strickland promised, "That it's business as usual in the county."

Diamant stopped Strickland again 45 minutes into the meeting.

"Obviously he feels that this is important, will we expect him?" Diamant asked Strickland.

"I need to talk to him to find out, but it is important, like I said, it's been on the calendar," Strickland said.

"Should we read anything into the absence due to the timing of events earlier this week?" Diamant asked.

"No," Strickland said.

Still unable to reach her boss, Strickland assured Diamant that "we're not going to play these running-from-the-media games. He's trying to keep his own schedule and it's not unusual for sometimes one appointment runs later than the other."

Diamant did see Ellis' chief of staff and the county's chief operating officer at the meeting.

After the meeting, Diamant got call from Strickland, who said Ellis never made it because he got tied up and will work to reschedule.

Gov. Nathan Deal's office confirmed Thursday that they received the certified indictment, spelling out the charges against Ellis.

The governor now has to wait 14 days before naming a commission to determine if Ellis will keep his job.