Justice Department Uncovers 'Inconsistencies' in Fani Willis's Use of Federal Grant Funds

Fani Willis (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
April 10, 2024

President Joe Biden’s Justice Department has uncovered "inconsistencies" in Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis’s use of federal grant funds, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

The bombshell discovery comes two years after Willis fired a whistleblower who had warned the district attorney that her office was attempting to misuse a $488,000 federal grant to pay for "swag," computers, and travel. It’s that same grant that the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs now says is plagued with reporting discrepancies from Willis’s office, errors that federal authorities only disclosed to the Free Beacon after providing contradictory statements regarding awards Willis’s office may have made under the grant.

"During our review of the award to respond to this inquiry, we have noticed some inconsistencies in what Fulton County has reported to [the Federal Subaward Reporting System] and we are working with them to update their reporting accordingly," a Justice Department spokeswoman told the Free Beacon on Friday.

The Justice Department did not provide any further details on the nature of Willis’s reporting "inconsistencies" on the $488,000 federal grant, which was earmarked for the creation of a Center for Youth Empowerment and Gang Prevention in Atlanta. The grant ended in September 2023, but the center never opened.

The Justice Department is coordinating with Willis’s office to fix the grant reporting "inconsistencies" amid an ongoing House Judiciary Committee investigation into Willis’s use of federal grant funds. Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) subpoenaed Willis in early February for records related to the $488,000 federal grant and the whistleblower allegations made by former Willis staffer Amanda Timpson, who was listed as the grant director until the district attorney abruptly fired her in January 2022.

Jordan threatened to hold Willis in contempt of Congress on March 14 after the district attorney responded to his subpoena with a "narrow set of documents" that had nothing to do with Timpson’s whistleblower allegations. Willis wrote in response that Jordan’s demands were "unreasonable and uncustomary" and suggested his investigation was an effort to derail her election interference case against former president Donald Trump.

The Free Beacon questions that prompted the Justice Department’s discovery of Willis’s reporting "inconsistencies" centered on subaward payments the district attorney may have made to the Offender Alumni Association, an Alabama-based charity staffed by former prison inmates.

Whether or not the Offender Alumni Association received payments from the federal grant depends on who is asked.

Fulton County records show that Willis’s office transferred $88,900 from the federal gang prevention grant to the Offender Alumni Association. But the group’s administrative director, Toni Barnett, told the Free Beacon that she had no idea why the county was reporting making those payments to her group in 2022 and 2023.

"I have no idea where that information is coming from," Barnett told the Free Beacon on March 15. "I have no idea why you’re calling or where you’re getting that information from. You need to go to that government resource and you need to let that validate whatever you want to say or print. Because I don’t know what you’re talking about."

Offender Alumni Association co-founder Deborah Daniels and chief operating officer Dena Dickerson did not return several subsequent requests for comment.

On March 27, a Justice Department spokeswoman told the Free Beacon that federal authorities had no records on any subgrant payments from Willis’s office to the Offender Alumni Association.

"The Offender Alumni Association is not listed as a subgrantee for the grant award, Gang Prevention in Fulton County, awarded at $488,594," the spokeswoman told the Free Beacon. "Hence, the questions regarding the organization as a subgrantee are not applicable."

However, the Justice Department changed its tune after the Free Beacon informed it that its records contradict Fulton County’s records, which disclose $89,900 in subpayments to the Offender Alumni Association.

"Upon further research, we found that Offender Alumni Association is included as a Fulton County subgrantee in subsequent documents," a Justice Department spokeswoman told the Free Beacon on April 1. "We apologize for this initial error."

The Justice Department refused to provide the Free Beacon with copies of the "subsequent documents" showing Willis’s office made subgrant payments to the Offender Alumni Association, or the date that Willis’s office reported the payments to federal authorities.

Willis’s office did not return a request for comment.

The "inconsistencies" surrounding Willis’s use of federal grant funds were discovered just weeks after a judge ruled the embattled district attorney could remain on her election interference case against Trump. The former president’s legal team petitioned to remove Willis from the case over her clandestine affair with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, with whom she had an illicit relationship while paying him more than $650,000 in legal fees to prosecute the former president.

Fulton County Superior Court judge Scott McAfee said in a March 15 order that an "odor of mendacity remains" after weeks of public hearings over Willis’s relationship with Wade. But the judge allowed Willis to stay on the case if she fired Wade. Trump's legal team is seeking to overturn the ruling at the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Willis has since christened herself as the "face of the feminist movement" after receiving the greenlight to stay on her case against Trump.

"I didn't think I was the face of the feminist movement, but somehow I became it," Willis said during an interview on CNN. "And I think that women feel like women are treated differently when they're professionals and they're proud to see someone that is strong and trying to do the right job."