Investigators search CEO’s home, office

Just two work days after being sworn in to his second term in office, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis’ home and office was searched by investigators from the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.

After more than two hours in Ellis’ home Jan. 7, investigators walked out with a desktop computer and several boxes.

The search was going on as Ellis was appearing before a special grand jury looking into watershed management contracts.

“Today, I was requested to come before the grand jury,” Ellis said, during a media conference while investigators were still in his home. “I voluntarily did that. When we finished the testimony today I was informed [and] I was given a copy of the search warrant. At that time I learned they were at my home as well as at my office. I’m not sure why they chose to do it this way, but they did. They have that right.”

The search warrant was “extraordinarily broad in scope, so I don’t know what they’re looking for,” Ellis said.

Ellis said his grand jury appearance is part of an ongoing investigation of the contracting process in watershed management.

“As always we’ve been fully cooperative,” Ellis said. “I’ve directed my staff to be fully cooperative. I’ve testified in the past and answered all questions.

Ellis said he does not know whether he is a target in the investigation.

“I do know that [investigators] want to look at some documentation,” Ellis said. “It’s a pretty broad warrant that they’ve issued. I would have provided it. If there’s anything in the house they want I would provide.

“I’ve racked my brains,” Ellis said. “Other than my personal effects I can’t imagine anything in my home that would be of interest to the grand jury, or in my office, but they’re certainly available if anyone wants to look at it.”

Ellis said he did not know whether the grand jury was looking for a particular watershed management contract.

Although he said he could not discuss the specifics of an ongoing investigation, Ellis said the grand jury “asked questions about our procurement process in DeKalb County, questions primarily about how we go about letting contracts.”

Ellis denied any knowledge of any wrongdoing.

“I haven’t done anything that I’m aware of and nor has my staff done anything that I’m aware of that is inappropriate,” Ellis said. “I can certainly tell you that there’s nothing in there that is in any way done wrong.”

County spokesman Burke Brennan said the special purpose grand jury has been looking into “a contracting thing” since March or April of last year.

“We had a contract administrator under contract who was also working for the guy who had the contract, so he was on both sides of the fence and the allegation was, he was approving contracts that he was supposed to deliver,” Brennan said. “That’s where it started.”

Brennan said Ellis has “nothing to hide so I’m not expecting any bombshells to come out of this.”

“We’ve provided any information and documentation that the District Attorney’s Office has requested,” Ellis said. “We’ll continue to provide any information and documentation that the District Attorney should want as they continue through their investigation.

“I’m going to continue to be honest,” said Ellis, who has appeared twice before special grand juries. “I’m going to continue to be transparent. I’m going to continue to work with all of the officials involved in this process and we’re going to continue to do our job.”

Although he said he is perplexed by the search warrant, Ellis said, “I’m not concerned given the fact that nothing’s wrong that I have done, nothing improper that I have done, nothing that I have to hide. We will be as forthcoming as possibly can.”

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