DeKalb County

Local
4:12 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Avondale Estates Getting Cold Shoulder From Some of its Annexation Targets

Avondale Estates was founded in 1924 and designed as a planned community.
Credit Lisa George/WABE News

The cityhood movement in DeKalb County – and the annexation efforts of existing cities in response to it – have two themes that keep coming up: securing strong tax bases and providing good schools.

Both issues are creating challenges for the small city of Avondale Estates.

With just 3,000 residents, Avondale Estates has long been a sleepy little enclave in DeKalb County. Now, a potential city is trying to form near its borders, and county seat Decatur is also trying to expand. So Avondale Estates wants to annex some land while there is still land to be had.

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Burrell Ellis Corruption Trial
3:29 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Judge Issues Allen Charge to Burrell Ellis Jurors: What Does That Mean?

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis has been suspended since his indictment in June 2013.
Credit DeKalb County

The jury in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is wrapping up its eleventh day of deliberations. Monday, the judge gave the jury what is known as an Allen charge.

  DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson had already instructed the jury to keep deliberating twice when they said they couldn’t reach a verdict.

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Local
7:21 am
Wed October 15, 2014

DeKalb Commission Frees Up Money for Ethics Board

Members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics (shown here) have tabled complaints against former county staffers Kelvin Walton and Nina Hall. Walton resigned and Hall was fired after their testimony in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit Lisa George/WABE News

The DeKalb County Commission has freed up $90,000 in funding for the county ethics board, which was reconstituted just last year to deal with mounting ethics issues.

DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May very publicly announced in June he was getting his fellow commissioners to allocate money for a Chief Integrity Officer, an investigator and an assistant, three full-time employees to help clean up the county’s ethics problems.

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Politics
4:14 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Fate Of Ellis Now In Jury's Hands

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

After three weeks of testimony, attorneys for both sides in Burrell Ellis’ corruption trial delivered their closing arguments Monday. Whether Ellis goes to prison or retains his position as DeKalb County CEO is now up to a jury.

Ellis faces charges of extortion and bribery, the latter of which carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Three county contractors testified Ellis shook them down for campaign donations. Another contractor testified Ellis wanted a bribe of $25,000.

Ellis denies all wrongdoing and his lawyers claim the charges are politically-motivated.

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Local
2:14 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Ellis Denies Retaliating Against Those Who Refused To Donate

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis on the witness stand Thursday.

Updated 4:10 p.m.

Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis and DeKalb District Attorney Robert James squared off for the first time Thursday in Ellis’ corruption trial. James grilled Ellis over allegations he shook down county vendors for campaign contributions.  

Under cross-examination, Ellis denied strong-arming vendors and insisted any issues between him and vendors were over poor customer service and unreturned phone calls, not donations. 

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Local
1:20 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Ellis Takes Stand Seeking To Refute Corruption Charges

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis on the witness stand.

Updated: 5:06 p.m.

After more than two weeks of listening to prosecutors make their case, suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis got the chance Wednesday to tell his side of the story.

Ellis is on trial for allegedly shaking down county vendors for campaign contributions, then lying about it under oath.

On the witness stand, Ellis insisted he never strong-armed vendors for donations.

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Local
6:00 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Your DeKalb Farmers Market Owner Not Keen on Cityhood

Your DeKalb Farmers Market boasts 140,000 square feet of space, but land is being cleared next to the market for a new facility that will have more than 500,000 square feet.
Credit TripAdvisor.jp

A major commercial player in DeKalb County says he does not want his business to become part of a city – either new or existing.

Robert Blazer keeps a low personal profile despite the high profile of his business. Your DeKalb Farmers Market, on East Ponce de Leon Avenue, paid nearly $300,000 in property taxes alone this year, and a major expansion project is underway.

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Local
4:07 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Key Witness Testifies Ellis Sought To End Vendor Contract For Political Reasons

Kelvin Walton testified for a second day today in the Burrell Ellis corruption trial in DeKalb County Superior Court (photo taken September 23, 2014).
Credit Kent Johnson/AJC

The state’s star witness in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis testified for a second straight day Wednesday. 

On the witness stand, DeKalb purchasing director Kelvin Walton, who for months wore a wire for prosecutors, said he and Ellis discussed shutting out county vendors who didn’t respond to Ellis’ phone calls for campaign donations.

During one exchange, Walton said Ellis told him to phone a county vendor that had been unresponsive to his calls for campaign contributions.

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Local
3:19 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

State's Star Witness Testifies Against Ellis

Kelvin Walton, director of Purchasing and Contracting for DeKalb County, identifies suspended Dekalb County CEO Burrell Ellis as he testifies in court Tuesday afternoon.
Kent Johnson/AJC

A key witness in the state’s corruption case against suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis testified Tuesday. Kelvin Walton, who was in charge of vendor contracts for the county, described Ellis as a bully who used him to help pressure county vendors for campaign contributions.

On the witness stand, an emotional Walton apologized to DeKalb residents for his actions. He said he had “nothing left to lose” and wanted “to come clean.”

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Local
6:00 am
Tue September 23, 2014

DeKalb County/South DeKalb YMCA Partnership Falls Apart

DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson was one of the co-sponsors of the proposed partnership between the County and the South DeKalb YMCA. Commissioner Johnson did not return WABE's repeated calls for comment after the deal fell through.
Credit DeKalb County, GA

The controversial partnership proposed between DeKalb County and the South DeKalb YMCA is dead ... or is it?

According to Curtis Winston, the South DeKalb Y’s executive director, “Because of the demands or the requests, we’re just not able to do it. And the last meeting we had, it’s done, it’s dead, we’re not revisiting it.”

DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon has a slightly different take, telling WABE, “We would like to continue to talk about a partnership so that the YMCA can provide services to everyone.”

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Politics
5:08 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Burrell Ellis Assistant Forced To Testify

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

The former assistant of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was forced to testify Monday in Ellis’ corruption trial, despite invoking her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Sitting beside her attorney on the witness stand, Nina Hall held back tears as she repeatedly cited the Fifth Amendment.

"On the advice of my counsel I’m exercising my right to remain silent," said Hall.

She repeated that more than two dozen times. In almost every case, the judge ordered her to answer the prosecution’s questions.

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Local
6:00 am
Fri September 19, 2014

DeKalb Cityhood Movement Affects Decatur's Annexation Plans

Credit City of Decatur

  The City of Decatur has mapped out its latest annexation plans, but the cityhood movement in DeKalb County could mean this is Decatur’s last shot at growing its borders.

  “A city can’t annex from another city,” says Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss, stating a simple fact that makes trying to grow Decatur more complicated than it used to be.

“So the question now isn’t, ‘Would you prefer to be in the City of Decatur or DeKalb County?’” says Merriss. “We believe the question is clearly, ‘Which city do you prefer to be in?’”

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Local
5:36 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Business Owner Says Ellis Threatened To End Contract Without Donation

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

It was day two of testimony in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.

A DeKalb vendor took the stand and testified work with the county dried up after his company refused to donate to Ellis’ re-election campaign.  

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Local
3:12 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Burrell Ellis Trial: Quick Review

Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis

Now that the trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis has begun, here are some of the events leading up to the trial.

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Politics
3:13 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Attorneys Deliver Opening Statements In Ellis Corruption Trial

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

Lawyers in Burrell Ellis’ corruption trial delivered opening statements Tuesday in a DeKalb County court room. It comes 15 months after the suspended DeKalb CEO was indicted on felony charges of bribery, extortion, and theft.

Speaking to a jury of ten women and two men, DeKalb prosecutor Lawanda Hodges said Ellis used his position as CEO to solicit campaign contributions, retaliate against those who didn’t give, then lied about it afterward.

"Power. Punishment. Perjury. That, members of the jury, is what the evidence will show you this case is all about," said Hodges.

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DeKalb County
4:29 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Metro Atlantans Remember 9/11/01

DeKalb County police and fire personnel stand for the approach of the color guard.
Lisa George WABE

Throughout Georgia – and the nation -- this morning, church bells rang, names were read, and most of all, there were moments of silence.

WABE was at DeKalb County’s 9/11 ceremony in Tucker. 

The ceremony's centerpiece: a sculpture that includes metal from one of the twin towers.

“So many of them went down that day,” remembered Mary Jane Shearer is from Tucker. “And going into those burning buildings, you cringed when you saw that. And when the buildings started to come down, it just made you sick. And I just think we need to remember and not forget.”

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Politics
6:00 am
Thu September 11, 2014

DeKalb Elections Board To Decide On Sunday Voting Plan

Credit DeKalb County Government

DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May has recommended early voting on Sunday October 26 at South DeKalb Mall. If approved by the County’s Board of Elections Thursday, the county would be among the first counties to let citizens vote on Sunday. But the lone state Republican Senator representing a portion of DeKalb says the move appears partisan.

Republican state Senator Fran Miller said May’s recommendation to place Sunday voting at the South DeKalb Mall ignores northern DeKalb and is clearly aimed at getting more Democrats to turn out in November.

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Politics
4:45 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Deal Backs Voter Fraud Investigation, Open To Sunday Voting Ban

Gov. Nathan Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal Wednesday weighed in on a state investigation into alleged voter fraud and a plan to allow Sunday voting in DeKalb County.

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has subpoenaed the New Georgia Project, one of the state’s largest voter registration groups. Kemp says he’s received complaints from several counties of faulty registration forms.

Critics have blasted the move as a blatant attempt to suppress votes.

Deal dismissed the criticism and said any complaints of voter fraud should be fully investigated.

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Local
4:50 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Lawyers in Ellis Trial Vet Potential Jurors

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

The corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis kicked off today with jury selection.

Ellis faces 13 felony charges including theft, bribery, and allegedly shaking down county vendors for campaign contributions.

Lawyers from each side vetted potential jurors for competence or bias.

DeKalb prosecutor Lawanda Hodges questioned a juror who said he didn’t like snitches. The prosecution is expected to use secret recordings and informants in their case against Ellis.

Hodges: Do you make a distinction between surveillance and snitches?

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Local
6:00 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Jury Selection in DeKalb County CEO Corruption Trial Begins Today

Jury selection begins this morning in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis.

Ellis faces 13 felony charges including theft, bribery and extortion. The allegation is that he pressured county vendors into contributing to his re-election campaign.

Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Ellis after his indictment last year; Deal then appointed county commissioner Lee May to serve as Interim CEO.

Ellis is an attorney. He won election as CEO in 2008 after serving two terms on the DeKalb County Commission.

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Nancy Jester
2:44 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Former DeKalb School Board Member Runs for County Commission

Nancy Jester
Credit DeKalb County School District

Former DeKalb County Board of Education member Nancy Jester is running to fill the DeKalb County Commission seat vacated by Elaine Boyer.

  “My skill set is needed here,” says Jester, saying her skill set is financial. If elected, she says she will not only work to cut spending, she will help restore trust in DeKalb County government.

“I’ll put an online check register on my website so that you’re not going to have to send a records request and wonder how the money is being spent in District 1’s commission office.”  

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Local
5:05 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Former DeKalb Commissioner Elaine Boyer Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Former DeKalb commissioner Elaine Boyer

Former DeKalb County commissioner Elaine Boyer pleaded guilty today to federal mail and wire fraud charges.

Boyer looked composed as she appeared before U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans.  A prosecutor read the charges: that Boyer entered a conspiracy with an unnamed advisor who billed DeKalb County for consulting services – authorized by Boyer but never performed – totaling some $78,000. The advisor then gave more than $58,000 of that to then-commissioner Boyer.

The judge asked Boyer if she knew what she did was wrong, and whether she knew she was cheating DeKalb County.

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Local
5:12 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

FBI, U.S. Attorney's Office Has Been Investigating DeKalb County for Months

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader says a federal grand jury subpoenaed the purchasing card records of each of the county commissioners.
Credit DeKalb County, GA

In announcing criminal charges yesterday against former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, U.S. Attorney Sally Yates confirmed DeKalb County has been under investigation for several months.

  Law enforcement officials did not say much about the investigation. However, Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta Field Office, did say, “We’re very aware of all the very public allegations about the activity in DeKalb County, and we’ll be looking into all of 'em.”

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Local
12:48 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Avondale Estates Rebuilding Commercial Area One Small, Locally-Owned Business at a Time

Tudor Village is the anchor of Avondale Estates. The city's east/west borders run from Sam's Crossing to Memorial Drive.
Lisa George/WABE

The city of Avondale Estates, in DeKalb County, is talking with MARTA about leasing land to provide 150 new parking spaces in its downtown area.

So why does a small, quiet city of just 3,000 people need additional parking? There is a quiet, but active small business boom going on there.

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DeKalb County
11:12 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

DeKalb Ethics Board Tosses Complaints Against Two County Commissioners, Moves Forward on Others

DeKalb County Ethics Board members Clara DeLay, Edwinett Murphy, Susan Neugent, Robert Blackman, and John Ernst.
Credit Lisa George/WABE News

The DeKalb County Board of Ethics took action Thursday night on each of the complaints against the county’s six commissioners.

Most of the complaints allege improper use of county purchasing cards: P-cards for short. The issue first surfaced in complaints against Commissioner Elaine Boyer and her staffer Bob Lundsten. The investigation into those complaints is now complete, and the board decided to schedule preliminary hearings for Boyer and Lundsten next month.

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Local
6:00 am
Wed August 13, 2014

DeKalb Seniors Frustrated by Senior Center Construction Delays

DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May talks with seniors about the delay in construction of three new senior centers. Some 50 seniors came to Tuesday's County Commission meeting to voice their frustration.
Credit Evan Jang/WABE News

Three new DeKalb County senior centers, scheduled to open  the end of last year, are still under construction.

The people who attend two of those centers brought those frustrations to the county’s Interim CEO Tuesday.

“If you go to any of the centers, you see that there is not work really going on right now,” acknowledged Interim CEO Lee May who had to contend with about 50 people at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.  

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DeKalb District 5
4:47 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

DeKalb Commissioners to Vote on Temporary Commission Member

George Turner
Credit DeKalb County

DeKalb County Commissioners will take the next two weeks to interview the nominee to join them on the commission.

Interim CEO Lee May has nominated Lithonia resident George Turner to fill the District 5 seat temporarily. May chose Turner from twenty candidates, saying he believes Turner will fill the need for consensus building on the commission. “George has really shown that type of temperament in his work out in the community,” said May. “And I think he would do the same thing on the Board of Commissioners.”

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Local
6:00 am
Tue August 12, 2014

New Vote Today on South DeKalb YMCA Purchase Unlikely

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners debated in June whether to approve a $4.95 million public-private partnership between the county and the South DeKalb YMCA. Under the deal, the county would buy the YMCA and lease the property back to the nonprofit for $1 a year.
Credit Michell Eloy/WABE News

The plan for DeKalb County to buy the South DeKalb YMCA on Snapfinger Road is changing.

County commissioners are scheduled today to vote – again -- on the plan to buy the facility for $4.95 million and then lease it back to the YMCA

Back in June, that plan failed to get the four votes it needed. With several commissioners now suggesting revisions to the plan, today’s scheduled vote will almost certainly be delayed.

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Local
4:32 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

DeKalb County Overhauls Purchasing Policies

Scott Callan, a consultant who is serving as DeKalb County's Interim Purchasing Director, holds the binders that held the county's previous purchasing policies. The new policy is less than 40 pages long.
Credit Lisa George/WABE

DeKalb County is overhauling its purchasing policies in response to a grand jury report that cited abuse and corruption in the procurement process.

The report, released last year, recommended a complete restructuring of the purchasing department. It said it found problems with the procurement process reaching back to the administration of Vernon Jones as DeKalb’s Chief Executive Officer. It is the same report that led to the indictment of current CEO Burrell Ellis.

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Local
6:00 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Druid Hills Considering Breaking Off From DeKalb To Join Atlanta

A map from 2008 laying out DeKalb's school districts and a sense of some of the county's neighborhoods, including Druid Hills.
Credit DeKalb County

Residents in the Druid Hills neighborhood surrounding Emory University are beginning to consider breaking off from DeKalb County and joining the city of Atlanta.

For Anne Wallace of the Druid Hills Civic Association, the choice is becoming clear.

“Twenty years ago, the county was running smoothly, taxes were lower, and the city of Atlanta had its challenges. Today, I see the city of Atlanta in a renaissance and the county is in a dismal place," said Wallace.

Druid Hills is a mostly white, affluent residential area in unincorporated DeKalb.

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