When the Georgia Supreme Court threw out the conviction of former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis in an opinion issued Nov. 30 stating he did not receive a fair trial, the high court cleared a path for Ellis to return to his job.

Ellis could be able to begin serving as soon as next week, forcing interim CEO Lee May to step down. But Ellis would then have to step down next month to make way for newly-elected Michael Thurmond. Ellis would also be entitled to back pay.

DeKalb County Attorney O.V. Brantley told Lee May and the Board of Commissioners in a Dec. 9 memo that “the state suspension statute provides that a suspended county official shall be immediately reinstated to office if his conviction is overturned as the result of an appeal.”

County commissioner Nancy Jester of Dunwoody said that because May’s appointment was made via an executive order from Gov. Nathan Deal, the court’s ruling supersedes the order.

“It is my understanding that once the Georgia Supreme Court releases certain documents to the DeKalb Superior Court, that Mr. Ellis will be immediately reinstated. As Mr. May holds the CEO office pursuant to an executive order from the Governor that is dependent on the legal status of Mr. Ellis, that order would be preempted by this verdict,” she said in a statement.

“I look forward to working with whoever is CEO to improve the quality of life through improved service delivery and fiscal responsibility,” Jester said.

Ellis was convicted in July 2015 of perjury and attempting to extort a campaign contribution from a county vendor. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.  suspended Ellis from the county CEO position and May took over as interim CEO. Ellis served eight months in jail.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.