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Panel recommends suspension of Ellis

ATLANTA -- A special three-person panel made a unanimous recommendation Monday that DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis be suspended from office.

The final decision is now up to Governor Nathan Deal.

Earlier in the day, Ellis appeared before the panel to try and keep his job.

Governor Deal appointed Rockdale County CEO Richard Oden and Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner to serve on the special panel along with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

A surprise witness was DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James who recommended suspension.

James read from a 15-count extortion indictment handed down against Ellis last month.

The district attorney argued Ellis used his position as Chief Executive Officer to strong arm campaign contributions from several companies doing business with DeKalb County.

"He would not have been able to accomplish these alleged acts unless he had the power of the CEO and the power of the office of the CEO," James argued.

With his wife by his side, Ellis' attorney argued campaign contributions had nothing to do with official duties.

His attorney also said Ellis insists he's innocent of the criminal charges.

"Without any doubt whatsoever, let us be clear that Mr. Ellis fully denies each and every one of these allegations," said attorney Craig Gillen.

As the committee adjourned to make its ruling, Ellis' only comment was that he was glad to present his side.

"I appreciate the opportunity to be here and appear before the commission and to make our argument. I think our lawyers did a very good job of articulating our position," he told reporters.

But in the end, the panel unanimously recommended that the Governor suspend Ellis.

After learning the panel's decision later on Monday, Ellis said he will accept whatever Governor Deal decides about his fate, but that he will continue to fight the legal battle to clear his name.

"I've done nothing wrong and I look forward to making that case with my lawyers against not only these charges, which are unsubstantiated, but unprecedented in nature," he told reporters outside his CEO office.

Also on Monday afternoon, Governor Deal told 11 Alive News he will make a decision on Ellis' political fate by the end of the week.

He said he didn't want to make a split second decision on an issue that's so important to Georgia's third largest county.

"That's an important position and I want to make sure that whatever I do is going to be in the best interests of the citizens of DeKalb County," Deal added.

MORE | Full coverage of Burrell Ellis