By: Pat Fox of Georgia Weekly Post
With one county commissioner in federal prison and its suspended CEO on trial for corruption, DeKalb County has had its fill of scandal in the past year
Long-time County Commissioner Elaine Boyer was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison in March after pleading guilty last September to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Federal prosecutors charged that Boyer had a vendor submit invoices for work never performed. Payouts of more than $75,000 were then funneled back to Boyer.
As part of her sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Orinda Evans also ordered Boyer to pay $87,350 in restitution.
At her sentencing, Boyer told the court, “I’m deeply ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated. I dishonored the position I held. I abused that power. I was elected to uphold the law and failed to do so myself.”
Boyer had represented north DeKalb County on the commission since 1992.
Elaine Boyer’s husband, John, also pleaded guilty to masterminding the scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced in August.
A month after Elaine Boyer’s sentencing, felony charges were filed against her longtime chief of staff, Bob Lundsten. Lundsten was indicted on six counts of theft by taking and three counts of making false statements. He was never charged in association with the federal case against Boyer.
Lundsten is accused of passing off about $240 in charges on his government-issued Visa card to retailers, such as UPS and Kroger, as office expenses.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges May 13. Sources close to the case say Lundsten has already mounted in the tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight the charges. Sources told Georgia Weekly Post of a deal in the works to reduce the charges to fines. Several former state District Attorneys criticised James's office of wasteful time and resources over few dollers. They noted the federal investigation by the U.S Attorney's office.
▲ Andrew Young, Elaine Boyer, Bob Lundsten, Burrell Ellis
Meanwhile, suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is awaiting his fate as a six-man and six-woman deliberate in his second corruption trial. Ellis is accused of shaking down county vendors for campaign contributions.
In closing arguments June 24, DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James called Ellis’ administration “a virtual sewer of corruption."
But, defense attorney Craig Gillen said the state had proved nothing and that Ellis never took a dime. Gillen also called character witnesses, including former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young to testify on his behalf.
Young attested to Ellis’ reputation for honesty and said he’d trust the suspended CEO “with my life.”
Gillen called other character witnesses, notably U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson and former DeKalb Board of Education Chairman Eugene Walker.
For his part, Ellis took the stand to deny wrongdoing. “I never asked anything in exchange for a campaign contribution. I never promised anything,” he said.
As DeKalb county dresses up for the fourth of July's Bash, Burrell Ellis dresses up to go to jail. He is convicted of four of nine charges in his re-trial of corruption. He was found guilty of three counts of perjury and a single count of attempted extortion.
According to the charges, he attempted to coerce county vendors into contributing to his re-election campaign and then attempting to cover-up his actions.
Meanwhile awaiting his trial or possible deal with state District Attorney Robert James, the once powerful mover and shaker Bob Lundsten is keeping low, driving a car for-hire. He is nowhere to be found around the political circles.