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Testimony on secret recordings in Ellis trial | News

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Testimony on secret recordings in Ellis trial
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DECATUR, GA (WXIA) – Monday was a day of testimony about secret recordings and so-called uncomfortable conversations in the Burrell Ellis retrial.

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Ellis, the now-suspended DeKalb County CEO, is accused of intimidating county vendors into giving him campaign contributions in exchange for county contracts.

"It was the classic pay-to-play scenario," said Brandon Cummings, while on the stand.

That's how Cummings described what he repeatedly called an uncomfortable phone conversation with Ellis.

"June 5, I left you a message; June 7, I left you a message," said Cummings. "June 11, I left you a message. Then, two weeks after that, I was told you weren't interested in my services. That's what I have a problem with. That's what got me."

Cummings is CEO of Power and Energy Services, a company once contracted to do business with the county.

He testified that in September of 2012, he recorded a telephone conversation with Ellis after being approached by the DA's office. In the conversation, he referred to a previous call he had with one of Cummings' employees who, Ellis said, told him Cummings was, "not interested in his services."

"For somebody to tell me, not even knowing why I was calling, to tell me that I'm not interested in their services, then, my response is, I'm not interested in theirs, and go ahead and cut the contract," he said. "I was uncomfortable for the rest of the conversation. To be told something contracts cut, and you did nothing wrong? You were calling to ask for the campaign contribution, not concerned about quality of work or the things we've done for the county."

During cross-examination, defense attorney Craig Gillem argued, that later in the call, Ellis said he'd put the initial conversation behind him, and wanted to move forward, asking if the company would support an upcoming fundraiser.

"So we were dealing with a clean slate," Gillem said.

But Cummings disagreed.

"I felt like if I didn't contribute, my work with the county would dry up? Yes. Did that happen? That's exactly what happened."

Almost immediately after that statement, prosecutors played a tape of Ellis' grand jury testimony, where he denied ever cutting a vendor because of campaign contributions, trying to show that directly contradicted the recordings we'd just heard. Court resumes Tuesday morning.

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