Fani Willis Claims Her Whistleblower Was a Poor Employee. Willis's Office-Wide Emails Say Otherwise.

Fani Willis (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
February 2, 2024

Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis defended her decision to fire an employee who blew the whistle on attempted abuse of taxpayer funds in her office, saying in a statement Friday she terminated the whistleblower for poor work performance.

But Willis sang a different tune about the whistleblower, former director of juvenile diversion Amanda Timpson, in the months leading up to her abrupt termination in January 2022, emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show.

Willis sang Timpson’s praises in a staff-wide email on Sept. 9, 2021, saying the whistleblower had a "dynamic" skill set that would serve her well in her new role as a liaison between two departments in the office. Timpson told the Free Beacon that "file clerk" was a more appropriate description of the role, to which she said Willis demoted her after she first warned the district attorney in a July 2021 meeting that one of her top aides was trying to misappropriate a federal gang prevention grant to pay for "swag," travel, and computers.

"Amanda Timpson will become our new Liaison between Record Restrictions and Pretrial Diversion," Willis said in the email. "She has been dynamic serving with Valencia Younger and will continue in that role assisting with records, but she will now expand to also working intimately with adult diversion as directed by Deputy Toole and Deputy Chief of Staff Epiffany Henry."

"I am really excited about this dynamic group," Willis added.

That wasn’t the first time Willis praised Timpson after demoting her to file clerk. A few days prior, Timpson was informed by the district attorney’s media relations manager that Willis had personally nominated her to be the featured employee on the next issue of the monthly District Attorney Dispatch newsletter.

"You have been nominated by Madam DA to be in the next issue of the DA Dispatch," media relations program manager Robin Bryant emailed Timpson on Aug. 28, 2021. "I am sure that you have seen our fabulous newsletter by now and have seen the features thus far. Yours will be similar."

Timpson declined the nomination. "She’s over here demoting me and saying I’m not doing my job, and next thing you know she’s trying to put me in her newsletter," Timpson told the Free Beacon. "I was so flabbergasted."

Willis offered a radically different assessment of Timpson’s work performance in a statement to Politico on Friday, calling the whistleblower a "holdover employee from the previous administration who was terminated for cause."

Timpson disputed the notion she was a "holdover" from former Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard’s administration.

"I’m not a holdover. There were no holdovers," the whistleblower said. "She elected me after she and her people interviewed me in front of a nine-member panel."

Indeed, emails reported by the Free Beacon show that Willis named Timpson to her 2021 Executive Leadership Team in December 2020, saying she had bested 400 applicants to secure a role in the select group of employees tasked with playing "a critical role of changing and rebranding the culture in [the district attorney's] office."

Timpson said her troubles in Willis’s office began in March 2021, when she stopped one of the district attorney’s top aides, Michael Cuffee, from dipping into a $488,000 federal grant earmarked for the creation of a Center for Youth Empowerment and Gang Prevention to pay for "swag," computers, and travel. Timpson said Cuffee claimed the proposed purchases were part of Willis’s "vision."

The center never opened, and the county-owned building meant to house it is closed to the public behind padlocked gates. And though budget documents for the federal grant show no money was earmarked for equipment or supplies, Willis’s office in November 2022 pulled $1,245 from the grant to purchase items from Dell, county spending records show.

Timpson recorded herself telling Willis during a November 2021 meeting that she was retaliated against for warning Cuffee that his plans were illegal.

"I respect that is your assessment," Willis responded. "And I'm not saying that your assessment is wrong." The district attorney also apologized to Timpson and said Cuffee had "failed" her administration.

But less than two months later, Willis terminated Timpson and had her escorted out of her office by seven armed investigators, the whistleblower said.

Willis sent Timpson a signed termination letter on Jan. 14, 2022, saying she was an at-will employee and as such, her services were no longer needed. Weeks later, Timpson received a separation notice providing "employee discharge" as the only reason for her termination.

"If for other than lack of work, state fully and clearly the circumstances of the separation: Employee Discharge," the notice stated.

Willis told Politico on Friday that Timpson’s allegations were "false" and called her ongoing whistleblower lawsuit "baseless."

"Any examination of the records of our grant programs will find that they are highly effective and conducted in cooperation with the Department of Justice and in compliance with all Department of Justice requirements," Willis said.

Willis will soon have to answer the whistleblower’s claims before Congress. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) subpoenaed the Fulton County district attorney on Thursday for documents related to Timpson’s allegations.

Willis admitted in a lengthy court filing on Friday to having an affair with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, the married man she hired to lead her racketeering case against former president Donald Trump. But Willis said she shouldn’t be booted from the case because of the relationship. Willis and Wade are set to testify in court on Feb. 15 in a motion to disqualify the pair from the case.