A DeKalb County grand jury hit suspended CEO Burrell Ellis with a new indictment on Thursday, the same day Ellis posted a video in which he professed his innocence and vilified his prosecutors.
Ellis faces a new charge that alleges he cut off a county contract after learning a vendor, Brenda Cornelius, had criticized Ellis professionally, the indictment said.
Cornelius was once an Ellis insider, serving on his transition team when he was first elected in 2008. Four years later, she was working on the marketing plan for the county’s foray into compressed natural gas – an alternative fuel captured from the county-owned landfill – when it was canceled.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July was the first to report Cornelius’ complaint about the alleged payback. “It is uncomfortable and suspicious timing that when it became common knowledge that I am not supporting the CEO’s re-election, my contract suddenly was terminated,” she wrote the county in a letter obtained exclusively by the AJC.
At the time, the AJC withheld Cornelius’ name at her request because of her fear she would lose business. But the new indictment indicates Cornelius is now a witness for the prosecution and will testify at Ellis’ corruption trial.
Ellis, twice elected to the top job in Georgia’s third-largest county, has strongly denied wrongdoing since January 2013 when law enforcement agents seized documents and computers from his home and office. Ellis was unaware searches were happening when they did because, at that time, he was testifying before a special purpose grand jury.
On Thursday, Ellis took an unusual step for a criminal defendant by posting a video on YouTube.com. He condemned the tactics used by District Attorney Robert James and accused the prosecutor of bringing politically motivated charges.
Ellis said when his home was “raided” his 83-year-old mother was there alone.
“The trauma of that event lingers to this day,” he said. “The D.A. went through my closets, my wife’s personal items, my kids’ toy bins and even my trash and found nothing illegal or improper because I have done absolutely nothing wrong.”
Ellis added, “With God’s help, I will be vindicated and return to my work as your CEO.”