DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A Channel 2 Action News investigation first exposed round-the-clock security at the home of indicted DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, even when he isn't there.
Now, we have learned the detail has been cancelled. Sources told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer the new interim CEO, Lee May, asked the DeKalb County police chief to look into whether or not the officer was needed outside of Ellis' home, and on Wednesday the officer finally left.
Records show that security detail has cost taxpayers more than $1.6 million dollars in lost ticket revenue over six months.
"Well obviously the officers feel like it's a waste of resources. That's one officer that's not out answering calls," said Fraternal Order of Police President Jeff Wiggs, who is allowed to speak on behalf of DeKalb officers.
He says the 24-hour security ties up three eight-hour shifts every day, usually from the police department's tactical team.
"Anytime you take an officer off a detail such as TAC, that's their primary job is traffic enforcement," said Wiggs.
Recorder's Court Chief Judge Nelly Withers was wondering why county ticket numbers are so low this year.
"It certainly affects the county's revenue bottom line," Withers told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
Withers said the TAC officers usually write an estimated 17 to 20 tickets per shift. She says a conservative estimate of 15 tickets per shift per day, equals more than 8,100 tickets missing so far this year. She says the average cost for budget projections is$200 each.
"And that includes anything that's not guilty, a dismissal, a warning," added Withers.
She said she's had to dismiss some cases because the TAC officers can't come to court.
"I'd call out an officer's name and have to reset a bunch of cases. I'd ask, 'Well where is this officer, because this unit is very good about coming to court?' and they'd say, 'Well he's on CEO detail,'" said Withers.
The officers said they are not allowed to leave the post for court, or any other reason.
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"It's the safest street in DeKalb County," said Wiggs.
In fact, there haven't been any burglaries in the immediate area where the officers sit, but Fleischer checked crime reports and noted 42 burglaries within just 1 mile of the CEO's home.
"It's probably a concern for the people that do live there. I bet it's also incredibly frustrating for the officer who's hearing the calls on his radio, knowing he's maybe a couple of streets away but he can't do anything about it," said Withers.
Ellis first took office in January 2009 and cancelled his full-timesecurity home detail after just two months. But he reinstated it Jan. 7, the very day district attorney's investigators raided his home and office with search warrants in a public corruption probe.
A grand jury indicted Ellis last month on 15 counts including theft and attempted extortion. He's accused of shaking down county vendors for large campaign contributions, and threatening future work if they did not comply.
In January, Ellis told Channel 2 Action News the officer stationed on his cul de sac was for traffic control purposes and had nothing to do with the search warrants.
A spokeswoman said the CEO has had some security challenges at his home, but would not reveal specifics.
As for the cost, she said using officers from another unit would still have a cost, just in another area; but that the CEO would consider budgeting it differently in the future.
She said the policy of officers not being able to leave to respond to nearby crimes in progress is up to the police chief.
Withers and Wiggs both cited tight budget times for the county, and suggested the money could be better spent on other department needs or for employees, who've been denied raises for several years.
"Even the citizens are raising eyebrows, and it's going to continue to add up until we stop this waste of time and money," said Wiggs.