DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A panel has recommended suspending DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, who faces allegations that he shook down vendors for campaign contributions.
District Attorney Robert James faced off with Ellis' lawyers at a Monday hearing over the case. Channel 2's Erica Byfield was at the state Attorney General's Office as James argued that Ellis should be suspended. The panel agreed.
Ellis faces a 15-count felony indictment.The indictment said he assigned staff members to create vendor lists, which he allegedly used to solicit contributions. Ellis then threatened to withhold county business from companies that didn't contribute, according to the indictment.
Ellis walked outside of his office to talk with Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri after the three-person review panel recommended he be suspended in light of the charges he faces.
"I met with my staff just momentarily," Ellis said. "I want to encourage them that we have work to do and we're going to continue that work."
The panel was made up of Georgia's attorney general, Rockdale County's CEO and Clayton County's commission chairman.
They decided unanimously the charges facing Ellis affect his ability to carry out his official duties.
"We'll wait to see what the governor decides to do. And should there be a decision to
suspend, I look forward to returning to office after the suspension period," Ellis told Viteri.
"I'm listening to people who have an interest in what is happening there and taking their advice," Deal <not introduced> said.
Deal said he wants to make a decision that's best for the citizens of DeKalb County, and expects to do so by the end of this week.
In the meantime, Ellis took the chance to again deny the accusations he tried to coerce county vendors into donating to his campaign.
"I wouldn't violate the trust the people of DeKalb County have placed in me by electing me twice as its CEO," Ellis said.
But who would step into the role of CEO should Deal decide to suspend Ellis remained an unanswered question, despite county protocol.
"There's some county guidelines that strongly suggest the presiding officer of the commission would be next in line to the CEO's office," county spokesperson Jeff Dickerson said. "We don't know what the governor's likely to do and we don't know what's to come."
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