Ellis was unavailable for the rest of the week, but Burke Brennan, his spokesman, said Thursday that he had not yet retained counsel but has spoken with lawyers about the developments of the past few days and their possible implications.
Investigators were collecting evidence for a special grand jury that has been probing the county’s Watershed Management and county contracting.
The search warrants said they are seeking information under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, extortion, bribery, theft by taking, and influence peddling laws.
They said investigators were looking for vehicles registered or assigned to Ellis and personal and business financial records including checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement and investment accounts, tax returns, safe deposit box keys, and storage devices.
Investigators took boxes of documents and computer hard drives from Ellis’ home in the Southland subdivision in Stone Mountain and from his downtown Decatur offices as part of the wide-ranging probe. Ellis was testifying for the second time before the grand jury on Jan. 7 when the raids began about 10 a.m.
Ellis told reporters that he was handed the search warrants at the end of his one-hour testimony. He said he was perplexed by the raids.
“I have done nothing wrong,” he said. “I can’t imagine anything in my home, office or personal effects that would raise an eyebrow.”
Investigators also searched the Atlanta offices of Ellis’ friend and former campaign manager Kevin Ross and took “any and all ‘backup’ discs and/or tapes and any archived e-mail messages” for Ellis and a number of his assistants and department heads from the county’s IT department. Specifically, they took e-mail messages for Ellis, his former Chief of Staff Jabari Simama, his current Chief of Staff Hakim Hilliard, Nina Hall, Karen Williams, Kelvin Walton, Felton Williams, Yolanda Broome, Joe Basista, Ken Saunders, William “Wiz” Miller, Chris Morris, Richard Stogner and Joel Alvarado.
Investigators also searched the county’s finance, elections, and purchasing and contracting offices.
The seven search warrants, signed by DeKalb Superior Court Judge Cynthia J. Becker on Jan. 4 and executed on Monday, sought “any and all” records pertaining to the county’s contracts for probation services, lobbying, ambulance services, and its Watershed Management Capital Improvement Program.
At the county’s Finance Office, they were in search of Ellis’ American Express credit card records, and at the Elections Office, his campaign finance disclosure records.
The warrant on Ross sought documents pertaining to the DeKalb County probation services contract, lobbying contracts, and ambulance services, and specifically “any and all documents associated with Sentinel Probation Services, Montgomery Watson, Rural Metro Ambulance, Massey-Bowers, and the Ferguson Group.”
Ellis, who took the oath of office for his second and final four-year term as CEO, told reporters at a 12:30 p.m. news conference on Monday that he didn’t have representation but would seek it to protect his family.
It was his second time appearing before the grand jury, which has been investigating for more than a year.
Ellis and his wife, Phillipa, are both lawyers.
“I am not represented now, but I am going to get counsel to protect my family,” he said.
Ellis said he is cooperating fully with the grand jury and has instructed his staff to do the same.
During his Jan. 7 testimony, he said he was asked about how the county lets contracts but declined to go into specifics because of the ongoing investigation.
“My staff hasn’t done anything inappropriate,” he said. “I haven’t done anything inappropriate that I’m aware of.”
Ellis’ 83-year-old mother, who is visiting from Washington, D.C., and attended his Jan. 3 “unity inauguration,” was at the house when detectives arrived with the warrant. Ellis said she let officers into the home before going next door to sit with a neighbor while the team did its work.
To a question about his campaign contributions, Ellis told reporters that he may have received campaign contributions from county vendors but never promised anything in return.
“I’m CEO,” he said. “I talk to a lot of vendors. I have done nothing inappropriate.”
Ellis said the search warrants are extraordinarily broad.
“I don’t know what they are looking for,” he said. “I have a safe in the house. I gave them the combination. I expect they will leave a list of things they have taken.”