Governor Nathan Deal announced today he has decided to suspend DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis from office while Ellis is under indictment for felony charges of alleged extortion, in keeping with the decision of a three-member panel. DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May will serve as interim CEO while Ellis is suspended from office.
"I agree with the bipartisan panel of elected officials that the allegations against Burrell Ellis directly relate to and adversely affect his ability to carry out his duties as DeKalb CEO," Deal said. "I will therefore sign an executive order to suspend him from office until his term ends or until the case against him is adjudicated. The responsibility to suspend and replace elected officials is one that I do not relish, but one I will not shy away from. The laws of Georgia give the governor the authority to appoint an interim official, but with my appointment, I will respect the spirit of the local statute which calls for the commission chairman to succeed the CEO should the office come open. I gave this appointment thoughtful consideration and I was looking for a leader who had already won approval from DeKalb voters and knows how the county operates. The new CEO meets these criteria, and I thank him for his willingness to serve."
The three-member panel, appointed by Deal, decided unanimously on Monday that Ellis should be removed from office while the charges are prosecuted in court. Rockdale County Commission Chairman and CEO Richard Oden, along with Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeffrey Turner, both Democrats, and Attorney General Sam Olens. who is Republican, were on the panel.
Ellis is accused of trying to remove contractors who had not contributed to his campaign from consideration for DeKalb County contracts and using lists of DeKalb County vendors to contact them for campaign contributions. He faces four counts of criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion, two counts of conspiracy in restraint of free and open competition, two counts of criminal attempt to commit false statements and writings, three counts of theft by taking, one count of conspiracy to defraud, and three counts of coercion of other employee to give anything of value for political purposes.
In the report to the Governor, the panel wrote "After a review of the indictment and hearing from interested parties, the Commission finds that the indictment charging W. Burrell Ellis, Jr. with the above-listed violations does relate to and does adversely affect the administration of the office of CEO of DeKalb County, and that the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected thereby."