Burrell Ellis speaks on CEO powers, cityhood and his trial

Credit: David Tulis

Credit: David Tulis

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, who has been charged with racketeering and theft, said in a rare radio interview this week that he’s innocent of criminal wrongdoing and that the community has been rallying around him since he was removed from office.

Ellis, who has rarely spoken publicly since his indictment, appeared on WAOK radio with former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones. Prosecutors say Ellis used his position atop DeKalb government to shake down vendors for campaign contributions.

Here are three things Ellis said about his case, the burgeoning cityhood movement in DeKalb and the debate over whether the county should get rid of the CEO form of government.

1. The CEO form of government, where an elected official serves as the executive branch and runs the day-to-day operations of the county, needs to be preserved, Ellis said. There are proposals to get rid of the CEO, give the elected commission all policymaking authority and hire a county manager to run  government.

Ellis said: "If separation of powers and checks and balances are good enough for our federal government, the greatest democracy known to humankind, if it's good enough for our state government and if it's good enough for cities all across America … why would separation of powers not be good for DeKalb County?"

2.  DeKalb continues to be a hotbed for proposed cities. After adding Brookhaven last year, there are organizing movements afoot for three more DeKalb cities. Ellis said the continued subdivision within DeKalb is a recipe for higher taxes and racial division.

Ellis said:  "We're not against people creating cities, we're against a what amounts to resegregation and a separation of a community that is known for its diversity."

3. Ellis is slated to go to trial next year to fight corruption charges. In court motions he has alleged that "political rivals" are behind the criminal charges.

Ellis said:  "It is unfortunate that someone -- or some -- have targeted me and taken a political agenda against me and decided to move me aside."