A DeKalb County police officer has been stationed outside county CEO Burrell Ellis’ home for more than two weeks, ever since agents from the district attorney’s office searched the south DeKalb residence looking for evidence of bribery, bid rigging and other crimes of political corruption.
Investigators from District Attorney Robert James’ office also searched Ellis’ county office that day, as well as the home and office of his former campaign manager, attorney Kevin Ross. Neither Ellis nor Ross has been charged with a crime. Both deny any wrongdoing.
William “Wiz” Miller, the county’s E-911 director, assigned the around-the-clock security to Ellis’ house hours after the Jan. 7 search, without a request from Ellis. However, a county spokesman said the CEO had expressed concern about the public spotlight on the home he shares with his wife and young children.
“I know that safety concerns had been an issue early on and that it has been an issue that his house is now a focal point in the neighborhood,” county government spokesman Burke Brennan said.
Patrol officers, who earn between $36,000 and $66,000 a year, are rotated into the assignment, which calls for monitoring the area from a marked police car.
Given those salary ranges, the estimated cost so far is about $4,750, assuming officers stayed in the post for a full 24 hours. Not all did, Brennan said, adding that there is no additional cost to taxpayers since the department is assigning officers already working those shifts.
Brennan said the protection is designed to handle an increase in foot and vehicle traffic in the residential neighborhood.
The security is in addition to the two police officers who are already assigned to protect Ellis during his official duties.
One officer works the morning shift and the other an evening shift. When fully staffed, with a third rotating officer who handles weekends, the combined cost is about $136,000 annually. The police department funds that security detail.
At the time, Ellis was testifying before a special grand jury looking into allegations of corruption in Watershed Management contracts at the county. Only Ellis’ 83-year-old mother, in town for his swearing-in ceremony after his re-election, was home when agents arrived.
Search warrants show agents seized campaign contribution records and county contracts, specifically with firms Ross represented after Ellis was elected.
Those warrants also sought information about six companies. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation revealed that five of those companies have done more than $4 million worth of business with DeKalb since Ellis became CEO in 2009.
Ellis has received about $20,000 in campaign contributions, collectively, from the companies named.
The special grand jury has yet to compile a final report on its findings from a year-long investigation. The DA can use that report to ask regular grand juries to weigh criminal charges.
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