DeKalb County taxpayers paid a final tally of $1.1 million to reimburse former CEO Burrell Ellis for the legal fees he incurred defending himself against charges of corruption before his conviction was overturned.
That amount is roughly 50 percent higher than the payout amount initially anticipated by the Board of Commissioners, which signed off on a $755,561.98 payout for Ellis’ legal costs in April.
Ellis’ legal team argued it wasn’t enough. It took months longer for Ellis and the county to agree on how much was ultimately owed.
The final payout included money for the team of lawyers that represented Ellis after he was accused of pressuring businesses with county contracts to donate to his 2012 re-election bid. In addition, the county paid the interest Ellis accrued after taking out a loan and using personal lines of credit. The county also agreed to reimburse Ellis for the penalties and taxes he faced after making early withdrawals from a retirement account to foot his legal bill.
The $1.1 million is in addition to $223,000 already paid to the former CEO for withheld wages.
A jury found Ellis guilty of attempted extortion and perjury in 2015, but the Georgia Supreme Court later ruled that he didn’t receive a fair trial. Ellis had already spent eight months in prison when DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston announced last February that she would not retry the case.
That put taxpayers on the hook for footing Ellis’ legal defense bill. Georgia law allows government officials to have their costs reimbursed if they are found not guilty or charges are dropped.
During its Dec. 12 meeting, the DeKalb Board of Commissioners approved an emergency addition to the agenda that increased the payout to $1.1 million. However, it took several weeks for the county to fill The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s public record requests detailing the final amount.
BY THE NUMBERS
DeKalb County paid former CEO Burrell Ellis $1.1 million for his legal defense costs. Here is a breakdown of the payout:
Legal fees and expenses submitted prior to Dec. 2017: $789,476.14
Additional legal fees: $4,000
Credit interest and fees on debt, 2013-2017: $41,847.64
Interest incurred on a loan taken out during appeal: $2,500
Additional taxes, penalties and interest due to early IRA withdrawal and bond distributions: $256,433.40
Total amount paid to Ellis: $1,094,257.18
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