Brett Favre texts show his role in Mississippi welfare scandal – NBC News

Brett Favre texts show his role in Mississippi welfare scandal - NBC News

Recently released text messages from NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre show he was much more involved than previously known in pushing for millions of federal welfare dollars to be diverted of helping poor families instead pay for a new volleyball facility at the school where his daughter played the sport.

The messages, released in a court filing this week, also reveal that Favre sought reassurances from a nonprofit executive that the public would never learn he was seeking millions of dollars in grants that ultimately came from the mississippi social agency.

Favre has said publicly that he did not know the funds were charity dollars and that he believes he did nothing wrong. He has repaid $1.1 million that was given to him directly, but the state auditor says he still owes $228,000 in interest.

For more watch “NBC News with Lester Holt” tonight

Brett Favre performs at the NFL Honors show on February 10, 2022, in Inglewood, California.
Brett Favre performs at the NFL Honors show on February 10, 2022, in Inglewood, California.Michael Owens/Getty Images file

NBC News was first to report that the FBI questioned Favre in the matter, but there is no indication Favre is a target of the FBI’s criminal investigation.

In July, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D.-Miss., asked the Justice Department to investigate the role Favre and former Gov. Phil Bryant played in the sprawling welfare scandal.

Favre’s lawyer, Bud Holmes, told NBC News that Favre behaved “completely honorably in everything,” and that there was nothing remarkable about the newly released texts.

The relevant social funds were part of the 86 million USD mississippi is given each year by the federal government to lift families out of poverty. Mississippi is the poorest state in the countrywith almost 200,000 children live below the poverty line.

The text messages were first reported by Mississippi Today and appeared Monday in court filings in a civil case spurred by the largest public spending scandal in state history. The state auditor discovered $77 million in misspent charitable funds in February 2020. The state filed a civil lawsuit against 38 defendants.

According to text messages and court filings, the idea to divert funds to the volleyball facility appears to have been discussed at a July 2017 meeting that included Favre, John Davis, the head of Mississippi’s social services agency (known as the Department of Human Services, DHS). ), and Nancy New, whose charity received millions in grants from the state agency. Nova, Davis and Favre are defendants in the state’s civil lawsuit.

The text messages, which were part of a filing by New’s lawyer, do not establish that Favre knew that the public funds discussed were charity money.

The volleyball facility, which has now been completed, is at the University of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s alma mater.

The newly released text messages indicate that Bryant, a Republican, was much more involved in the project as governor than previously known. Texts suggest he actively worked to get Favre the funding. On July 16, 2019, he texted New that he had just left a meeting with Favre, writing, “Can we help him with his project?”

A lawyer for Davis declined to comment. Davis has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy.

New’s nonprofit was supposed to focus on running programs to help families in poverty. But New claims in court documents that she was directed by Davis and Bryant to misappropriate millions in welfare funds by distributing it to friends and family of Davis as well as to former professional wrestlers and Favre.

After the July 2017 meeting, Favre thanked New for the first financial installment for the facility. “Nancy thanks again!!! John [Davis] mentioned 4 million and not sure if I heard him right. A very big deal and can’t thank you enough.”

Four million dollars was not enough to complete the project. And to get the remaining money that was needed, the texts indicate that Favre and New came up with a plan. She would pay Favre $1.1 million in state funds directly and he would do some radio ads. Then he said he would transfer the money to the volleyball project.

“I might record some radio spots here at first. I’m sure right here. See how it’s received and whatever compensation might go to USM,” Favre wrote.

New wrote back jokingly suggesting the “$4 million” compensation with three smiley face emojis, “Kidding,” she wrote. “The first phase could be $500,000 and after September we can renew. This is a good approach. What do you think?”

Favre replied, “Just thought this was the way to do it!”

New offered that her son Zach New could write up a contract for Favre.

Nova and her son both pleaded guilty to charges of misspending public money that was supposed to be spent on Mississippians in poverty.

Over the next two years, as Favre communicated with New, text messages show he had some concerns about the arrangement.

At first he worried that he might be too busy to do the radio spots. “My biggest concern is a time commitment so we can manage that I’m good.”

New replied: “Please don’t worry about your time commitment. We can only imagine how many directions you are being pulled. Just a few things here and there, spread out will be a lot.”

Sometimes Favre worries that the payment to him from the state will become public.

“If you paid me, can the media find out where it came from and how much?”

“No, we never had that information released,” Nancy replied. “I understand you’re worried about it though.”

By August, New confirmed that the then-governor was supportive. “Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He’s on board with this, we’re going to do it!”

A few months later, in December 2017, Favre received New’s money and texted her. “Nancy Santa came by today and dropped off some money,” he wrote, adding two smiley faces. “Thank you my God thank you. We need to set up the promotion soon. Your way kind.”

By March 2018, construction costs for the volleyball facility were increasing and Favre appeared to be concerned that the project would run out of money. He shared his concern with New via text.

A year later he asked again, “Nancy, are you still confident that you can cover the $1.8 and that number will probably decrease as we get closer.”

New replied: “In a meeting with John Davis now. He said we will cover a lot of it but it may have to be in a few installments. We are on board!”

Often, the text messages show, Favre would strategize with New about how to make sure the money would be provided and how to get the governor to commit to more funding. Would a phone call to the governor help? A meeting? A message? Favre wrote to New that he asks the governor about the finances “every week.”

Favre said he did not know the money was welfare funding. The text messages show, however, that he understood the flow of money between the governor, New and Davis – the head of the state welfare agency, DHS, which is dedicated to improving the lives of poor children and families in the state.

Favre also seems to know both New and Davis well, sometime in 2019 tweeting, with more smiley faces, “I love John so much, and so do you.”

Once, when Davis left DHS, Favre texted Nova, “Any word? Met the new director yet?”

In a statement about the released texts, Bryant’s lawyer, Billy Quin, said the former governor agreed to produce the texts “even though he is not a party to the lawsuit”, and asked that New’s lawyer “agree to protection”. an order that would allow the [texts] to be used in court with certain reasonable restrictions.”

Bryant’s attorney said cases should be tried in court, not in the press. “It appears that New’s attorney prefers to try his client’s case in the latter as opposed to the former.”

When asked about the concern, Favre expressed that the public would find out that he was receiving a state grant, Favre’s lawyer, Bud Holmes, said that Favre “just didn’t need the publicity” and thought, “it would be bad to get money from a program.”

Holmes said Favre originally offered to make public appearances for free, but Nancy New, who ran the nonprofit that distributed the charitable grants, “kept saying she had a budget.”

Holmes said Favre did not know the funds came from the federal welfare program. “He didn’t understand where the grants came from,” said Holmes. “He had no idea.”

Asked why Favre, who was paid about $140 million during his NFL career, didn’t just donate money for the volleyball facility, Holmes said, “He donated some, but that’s the way it is with rich people. They make money.”

Holmes added that comedian Jerry Lewis didn’t just donate money for his popular muscular dystrophy telethons, “he got it.”

Holmes, who previously acknowledged that Favre had been interviewed by the FBI, said he had not been contacted recently by federal investigators.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.