Third contractor testifies in Burrell Ellis corruption trial - CBS46 News

Third contractor testifies in Burrell Ellis corruption trial

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DEKALB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

An employee of a technology firm testified Monday that suspended CEO Burrell Ellis threatened her company and claimed it would lose county work if it did not donate to his re-election campaign.

Joanne Wise was employed by Ciber, a technology consulting firm, when Ellis made several calls to her in 2012.

Wise testified she told the CEO her company had a policy not to donate to political campaigns. She said Ellis then asked her for a personal donation.

"Then he said, 'Well, Ciber benefited from this relationship. Surely, you also personally benefited from this relationship, so can I count on your personal contribution to this campaign?'" Wise told the court, recounting her conversation with Ellis.

Ellis is facing more than a dozen charges, including bribery and extortion. He is accused of pressuring vendors to donate to his campaign or risk losing county work.

"How did he respond to your statement that neither you nor your company could give a contribution?" asked prosecutor LaWanda Hodges.

"'Then you will not get any more business from DeKalb County, I can tell you that,'" Wise testified about Ellis' response.

Wise described the CEO's demeanor as "agitated" and "very irritated."

Late Monday afternoon, Ellis' former assistant, Nina Hall, took the stand. She pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer most questions.

Monday's testimony began with the county's community development director, Chris Moore.

She told the court she attended a 2012 meeting where Ellis said he wanted to cut off work for National Property Institute (NPI), a company that fixed up rundown properties in DeKalb County.

Ellis was angry with NPI's owners because they refused to make a campaign contribution or return his calls.

Moore said she advised the CEO it was not wise to stop awarding work to NPI.

"The contractor had not done anything wrong," Moore testified. "There's no reason to end a contract because a call was not returned to the CEO."

Testimony resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m.

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