DeKalb County is under a dark cloud.
That’s what suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis said during an interview with former CEO Vernon Jones Dec. 20 on radio station WAOK. Jones was a guest host for what he called a “historic” meeting of “one CEO to the other.”
Ellis was suspended from office in June 2013 by Gov. Nathan Deal after being indicted on corruption charges.
“We’re looking forward to full vindication,” Ellis said during the live radio show. “I look forward to the day of returning to the office that they elected me to serve. I want to finish the job…that God called me to and that the people entrusted in me.
“But there’s a dark cloud that remains over DeKalb County until that day when I return to office,” Ellis said. “We need to go ahead and remove that cloud and I’m looking forward to that.”
Ellis said holding public office is a trust with constituents.
“I would never violate their trust,” he said. “It’s a sacred trust. It’s something I was taught by my parents. It’s something that my wife and I believe in and are passing on to our children.
“People who know me know that I would never do anything wrong,” Ellis said. “And I haven’t done anything wrong in this instance.”
In addition to Ellis’ legal woes, Jones and Ellis discussed various county issues, including cityhood and the proposal to change the county’s form of government.
Ellis said he is not opposed to the creation of new cities but is “against what amounts to a resegregation and a separation of a community that is known for its diversity.”
“We’re not against people having an extra layer of government if they want to have a layer of government and services brought closer to them,” Ellis said. “But this is about the syphoning of resources away from county government.
“Why is that important?” he asked. “Because county government still has to run the court system. County government still has to run the libraries. County government still has to run the elections and make sure that those are fair. County government still has to [monitor] public health and the public hospitals and to run the sheriff’s office and deliver community services and, quite frankly, deliver the bulk of the infrastructure—sidewalks, and our water and sewer systems—that we depend on.”
Jones said the cityhood movement is becoming divisive.
“There are good people in this county who are being separated by those who are playing on their fears and they are dividing us,” Jones said. “[With] the creation of these new cities, you’re literally seeing government being bleached. They’re literally creating White cities, putting White communities against south DeKalb.
“They’re syphoning off resources,” he said. “It’s now gotten to the point where you want to do independent school systems for each of these cities. It’s like it’s resegregation all over again.”
Ellis said he is concerned about some of the talk about changing the form of government.
“My vision for DeKalb County was that the people’s priority would be the priority of their local government,” he said. “The people’s priority is not to change the government.
“DeKalb County has separation of powers,” Ellis said. “One should ask him or herself if separation of powers and checks and balances are good enough for our federal government, the greatest democracy known to humankind, if it’s good enough for our state government, if it’s good enough for cities all across America and one out of four–most metropolitan counties—in the United States of America, why would separation of powers not be good for DeKalb County?
“Where would checks and balances be if we got rid of the executive branch of government?” he asked.
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