Contractor says DeKalb County CEO forced campaign donations

Witness discribes Burrell Ellis' alleged outburst during corruption retrial

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A vendor told a jury he felt like DeKalb County's top boss twisted his arm and stepped on his neck to get him to contribute to his political campaign.

Testimony is being heard in the retrial of  suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis. He is facing nine counts for allegedly shaking down vendors.

Greg Shealey is the vice president of National Properties Institues, a company that rehabs properties.

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Shealey told the jury about a meeting he and his co-workers had with Ellis. He said Ellis wanted a campaign contribution from his company, and when Shealey's wife didn't return Ellis' calls about the contribution Ellis lost it.

In court, Shealey said he eventually gave Ellis $2,500.

When the defense cross examined Shealey, they tried to ask him about his marital issues. The judge ruled that was not relevant.

A vendor told a jury he felt like DeKalb County's top boss twisted his arm and stepped on his neck to get him to contribute to his political campaign.

Testimony is being heard in the retrial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis. He is facing nine counts for allegedly shaking down vendors.

Greg Shealey is the vice president of National Properties Institutes, a company that rehabs properties.

Shealey told the jury about a meeting he and his co-workers had with Ellis. He said Ellis wanted a campaign contribution from his company, and when Shealey's wife didn't return Ellis' calls about the contribution Ellis lost it.

In court, Shealey said he eventually gave Ellis $2,500.

When the defense cross-examined Shealey, they tried to ask him about his marital issues. The judge ruled that was not relevant.

Later in the day, a retired DeKalb County department head testified CEO Burrell Ellis was frustrated with her because she was defending a vendor he wanted to cut off when the company didn’t return any of his 17 telephone messages.

Chris Morris, former head of DeKalb’s Department of Community Development, said Ellis repeatedly said he was upset with the co-owners of National Property Institute because they were not responsive to the head of a county that had awarded them a $1 million contract to rehab rundown houses. He insisted he was not threatening their contract because they did not give to his 2012 re-election campaign.

She, who retired in April, said she believed otherwise.

Ellis had asked her to call NPI’s owners, Trina and Greg Shealey, to come to a meeting at his office on Oct. 1, 2012, because he wanted to talk about the lack of responsiveness.

According to testimony, Ellis had called Trina Shealey 17 times to ask for help retiring his campaign debt and she returned none of the calls.

“Even though the CEO said it (the meeting with the Shealeys) wasn’t about campaign contributions, that was the origins of it,” Morris testified.

Ellis and Trina Shealy spoke once between June and September in 2012, as she was driving to a meeting, but the call ended abruptly. Trina Shealey testified earlier in the trial that Ellis’s call was dropped when someone else called her cellphone. She also testified she did not tell her husband, her business partner, about the calls.

Testimony in Ellis retrial began Tuesday.