Phil Bryant helped Brett Favre get social funds for volleyball stadium – The Washington Post

Phil Bryant helped Brett Favre get social funds for volleyball stadium - The Washington Post

Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant helped Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre raise social funds to help build a volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi, according to a report. investigative report by Mississippi Today.

The outlet reviewed text messages from 2017 and 2019 that were presented Monday in Mississippi’s lawsuit over misused welfare funds. The filing was by an attorney representing Nancy New, who founded the Mississippi Community Education Center that had to spend tens of millions in federal welfare funds to help the state. New pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts of bribery, fraud and racketeering in what state auditors determined was the largest case of public fraud in Mississippi history, with at least $77 million misspent by nonprofit leaders.

The texts allegedly show Favre, New and Bryant conferring on how to divert at least $5 million for a volleyball stadium at Southern Miss, where Favre was playing college football and his daughter was playing volleyball at the time some of the texts were sent.

“If you paid me, can the media find out where it came from and how much?” text showed Favre asked New in 2017. She replied that “we never have that information released” and told him the next day, “Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He’s on board with us! We’re going to do it!”

In a text from July 2019, Bryant told New that he had just met with Favre and asked if she could help him.

A lawyer for Favre denied that his client knew he received welfare funds. “Brett Favre has been honorable throughout this whole thing,” Bud Holmes told Mississippi Today. In 2020, Favre told the outlet that he did not discuss the stadium, which is not part of the state’s lawsuit, with Bryant.

Favre and Bryant, who left office in January 2020, have not been criminally charged, and Bryant did not address the texts in a statement to Mississippi Today. In it, he accused New’s defense team of being “more concerned with pretrial publicity than they are with civil justice.” The motion filed by New is the defendants’ first direct and public allegation of wrongdoing by Bryant.

Favre last year repaid the state $600,000 he received for speeches he never gave as part of a $1.1 million deal he made in 2017 and 2018 to promote an anti-poverty initiative. The state auditor reported that he initially paid $500,000 and in May the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a lawsuit against Favre, saying interest on the $1.1 million totaled $228,000.

States are prohibited from using money from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program on “brick and mortar” buildings and the effort to avoid federal regulations to build the volleyball stadium has already resulted in a criminal conviction.

Zach New, the son of Nancy New, accepted in an April plea agreement to defrauding the government when he participated in a scheme “to disguise the USM construction project as a ‘lease’ as a means of evading the strict prohibition of the limited purpose grant against ‘brick and mortar’ construction projects in violation of Miss. Code Ann. 97-7- 10.”

Favre was briefly questioned more than two years ago by the FBI, Mississippi Today reported last week. Holmes told the outlet that Favre was asked one question and he believes Favre was not interviewed afterward. Mississippi Community Education Center hired Favre Enterprises in 2017 and 2018 to appear to promote Families First for Mississippi, a program designed to help low-income families, and Favre was a no-show for those.

In 2020, the former NFL quarterback denied he “received money for duties I did not fulfill,” saying, “I love Mississippi and I would never knowingly do anything to take away from those who need it most.”

Mississippi had the highest poverty rate in the nation, with 20.3 percent living below the poverty line, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. The American poverty nationally is 13.4 percent.

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