Key DeKalb County corruption witness breaks silence

DeKalb corruption witness discusses experience

The tree trimmer whose lawsuit spawned a sweeping corruption investigation in DeKalb County spoke exclusively with News Channel 2 Thursday about his experience seeing, and being a part of, alleged kickbacks in county contracts.

Paul Champion sued DeKalb County in 2010, claiming he was owed nearly $900,000 for work clearing trees and brush so another company could map DeKalb’s water and sewer lines.

He later appeared before a special grand jury investigating allegations of problems with contracts. Sources close to the investigation said Champion testified that the county’s purchasing director, Kelvin Walton, asked him for a bribe.

Walton has declined comment. But he is listed as the unindicted co-conspirator in nine of the 15 criminal counts against suspended CEO Burrell Ellis, allegedly gathering the names and phone numbers of vendors so the CEO could hit them up for political contributions and helping punish those who did not give.

Walton is expected to be a key witness against Ellis, who has denied wrongdoing.

That same grand jury report also calls for Champion also be criminally investigated but he told News Channel 2 that there is more to his case.

For instance, he billed for cutting in the same area twice because the county delayed work so long that the vegetation had grown back.

“As long as I get to present my side of the story with my witnesses that are current and former employees, I feel very confident we don’t have a problem,” Champion said.

The full Channel 2 report can be found on the WSB-TV site.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s story on Walton and Champion can be found here.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.