Secretly recorded tape played in Burrell Ellis trial - CBS46 News

Secretly recorded tape played in Burrell Ellis trial

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Day four of testimony in the Burrell Ellis corruption trial focused on a secretly recorded tape of a meeting the suspended DeKalb County CEO had with three other staff members in October of 2012.

Ellis is accused of threatening contractors to donate to his campaign or lose county work.

During the meeting, Ellis said he was unhappy with National Property Institute (NPI), a contractor that fixed up homes for the county.  He said he was angry that company owners did not return his repeated calls after he asked for a campaign contribution.

"She didn't respect this office," Ellis is heard saying on the recording, referring to the co-owner of NPI, Trina Shealey. "She didn't respect this office and what we do here."

Shealey testified on Thursday that she felt pressured to make a campaign contribution but refused. She described Ellis as "rude" and "demeaning" during a meeting in 2012.

On the recording played Friday, Ellis told his staffers he no longer wanted to do business with NPI.

"You dry ‘em up. You don't give them any more work. You know, you just dry ‘em up," jurors heard Ellis say. "Just give the work to somebody else."

Ellis told his staff members that taking work from NPI was not tied to campaign contributions.

"You don't respond to the CEO, then you don't respond to the county," Ellis said. "It's not my ego on the line." 

Ellis' one-time chief of staff, Hakim Hilliard, was at the taped meeting on Oct. 1, 2012, which was his first day on the job. He testified that he did not speak up since he was new in his position. However, Hilliard said he was concerned if the county took work from NPI.

 "I was concerned that the vendor was going to think it was about a campaign contribution," Hilliard told the court. "These issues were too close to one another and probably shouldn't do anything with this contract."

Chris Morris, the county's community development director, is heard on the recording saying that NPI was a reputable company and she felt their services should be retained.

After Morris left the meeting, Ellis said he wanted her removed from her position. "It's time for Chris to go," he is heard saying on the recording.

Testimony resumes Monday morning.

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