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Vendors in DeKalb government probe earned millions

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Six companies that have sought business with DeKalb County were named in grand jury search warrants served on DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis seeking evidence of bid rigging, bribery and fraud, among other crimes. Below are the companies named in those documents, what they do and how much DeKalb has paid them.

Massey, Watson, Bowers & Hembree

What it does: lobbying, mainly in the Georgia General Assembly. Former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers, his son, Bruce, and John K. Watson founded the firm in January 2003.

Payments from DeKalb since 2009: $315,000

The Ferguson Group

What it does: Lobbying; the 30-year-old firm bills itself as the “largest federal representative of local governments in Washington, D.C.”

Payments from DeKalb since 2009: $60,739

Inland Waters Pollution Control

What it does: Underground pipe repair. The company has been contracted to do sewer repair.

Payments from DeKalb since 2009: $3.1 million

MWH Global

What it does: An engineering and construction services firm with 180 offices in 35 countries.

Payments from DeKalb since 2009: $636,039

Rural/Metro Corporation

What it does: Georgia-based ambulance services company that does emergency response in DeKalb.

Payments from DeKalb since 2009: None. But the contract to do business in the county was valued two years ago at $8.5 million per year.

Sentinel Offender Services

What it does: Probation services; national company that monitors offenders under court supervision.

Payments from DeKalb since 2009: None

About the DeKalb corruption probe

A special grand jury was convened under DeKalb District Attorney Robert James early last year to investigate allegations of corruption involving contracts in DeKalb County’s water and sewer department. By law, grand jury deliberations are conducted in secret. But clues have emerged to what the panel’s focus might be in search warrants the district attorney has executed and witnesses who have been called. Here are the key developments so far.

  • On Jan. 7, DeKalb investigators searched the home and office of DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis seeking, according to warrants, evidence of racketeering, bribery, theft, bid rigging and fraud. Ellis has denied any wrongdoing.
  • DeKalb investigators also searched the home and office of Atlanta attorney and political consultant Kevin Ross, Ellis’ campaign manager and a consultant to several vendors whose contracts with the county were specifically listed in the search warrants. Ross has denied any wrongdoing.
  • The grand jury probe began a year ago focused on contracting within DeKalb County’s water department. But search warrants executed last week suggest the probe has widened, as those warrants sought documents related to vendors who did lobbying work, underground pipe repair, construction and engineering work and ambulance service.




Digging deep

A grand jury corruption probe is likely reviewing nearly $20,000 dollars in campaign contributions to Ellis and more than $4 million in government contracts awarded to several businesses named in search warrants. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed numerous sets of data involving contracts and vendor payments and reviewed all contributions to Ellis’ campaign for two elections.

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