Effort builds to strip DeKalb CEO of power over contracts | www.myajc.com

18
Oct

Effort builds to strip DeKalb CEO of power over contracts | www.myajc.com

While serving as DeKalb County’s CEO, Burrell Ellis set the rules on how to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on contracts. He also could change those rules at any time.

With Ellis now suspended for allegedly abusing that purchasing authority, a growing chorus of state and local leaders is calling to take away the CEO’s control over awarding contracts. A grand jury report said that power is a key reason DeKalb is ripe for corruption. The change might even happen before Ellis goes to trial to answer charges of bid rigging, theft and extortion.

“At this point, I think it’s clear what happens when you govern with unlimited power instead of law,” Commissioner Jeff Rader said. “At minimum, it’s irresponsible. At worst, it’s criminal.”

The CEO’s control over contracts has long bothered DeKalb county commissioners.

But reeling in the CEO’s powers means changes to the county’s charter, which only the Legislature can do. And until now, lawmakers such as state Rep. Howard Mosby, who heads DeKalb’s House delegation, viewed much of the strife between the commission and Ellis and his predecessor, Vernon Jones, as power struggles. This year, that has changed.

The case against Ellis centers on allegations he hit up county vendors for campaign contributions and punished those who didn’t give. The first hearing in the 15-count indictment against Ellis, which had been scheduled for Thursday, has been delayed. Ellis has strongly denied wrongdoing.

The allegations, though, revived calls for an overhaul to DeKalb government. The setup of having an elected executive run daily operations is unusual in Georgia. Most counties, including the large ones in metro Atlanta, are governed by a county commission that hires and fires a professional manager.

via Effort builds to strip DeKalb CEO of power over contracts | www.myajc.com.

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