NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre continued to press Mississippi state officials for help paying for new athletic facilities at the University of Southern Mississippi months after the then-governor informed him. Phil Bryant that misusing federal welfare funds may be illegal, according to text messages in a court filing.
Favre, who was not charged in the massive Mississippi welfare scandal, said through attorneys that he did not know where the funds came from.
On July 28, 2019, Bryant Favre wrote that the founder of a nonprofit that paid him “has limited control over federal funding in the form of grants to children and adults in the low-income community.”
“Use of these funds [is] strictly controlled,” Bryant wrote, according to the filing. “Any improper use could result in a violation of federal law. The use of these funds is currently being examined by auditors.”
Nevertheless, Favre continued to push the volleyball court, according to the 62-page file, which opposes a subpoena for the former governor’s documents in a state scandal trial.
According to the filing, Favre texted Bryant on Sept. 4, 2019, after she and others discussed following a meeting to seek an additional $1.8 million to $2 million for programs at the new facility.
“Of course we urgently need your help and time is working against us,” wrote Favre. “And we think your name is the perfect choice for this facility, and we don’t take no for an answer! You are a Southern Miss alumni and people need to know that you are also a supporter of the university.”
Bryant responded, according to the file, “We’ll make it. That was a great meeting. But we must obey the law. I must[o] old for federal prison.”
The Holmes law firm, which is representing Favre, could not immediately be reached for comment.
An attorney representing Bryant, Billy Quin, told ESPN that the filing shows Favre “continued to press for government funds, first from DHS and later in a statutory appropriation.”
“Bryant told Favre that all DHS spending must be approved by the state auditor,” Quin said.
On Jan. 26, 2020, after Bryant left office, Favre sought the former governor’s help to obtain a statutory grant to cover his personal debt, according to the filing. That same day, Bryant told Favre in a text message that he would reach out to then-Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett.
The next day, Favre Bryant wrote that he spoke to “Tate” — current Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves — and urged Bryant to keep pressing as well, according to the filing. Bryant also texted Bennett, who responded that he “asked Brett not to do the things he’s doing to receive funding from government agencies and the legislature.”
“As you know, IHL [Mississippi’s higher education system] has a process for how we apply for and receive approvals for projects, and what he’s doing violates those policies,” Bennett wrote. “I’m going to see for the ‘nth time’ if we can get him to resign. The bottom line is that he personally guaranteed the project and on his word and handshake we went ahead. It’s time for him to pay – it really is that simple.”
Bryant replied: “Maybe he wants the state to deliver on its promises. Like all of us, I like Brett. He’s a legend, but he needs to understand what a promise means. I’ve tried many times[s] explain it to him.”
Favre is among the defendants in the state’s civil lawsuit over wasted welfare. As first revealed in an investigation by Mississippi Today, state auditors found that at least $77 million in welfare funds was misinvested or stolen in the largest case of public fraud in the state’s history.
Six people were arrested in February 2020. Most have pleaded guilty, including nonprofit founder Nancy New, who secured funding for Favre’s project, and John Davis, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. State Examiner Shad White said civil and criminal investigations are continuing.
Bryant, who has not been charged with a crime, said in his filing that he was unaware of efforts to divert state welfare funds. He said he offered to help Favre raise private donations and corporate sponsors. The subpoena for his records, the filing states, “was filed in bad faith … because he refused to ignore the crimes committed by New and Davis.”
Bryant’s filing states that he “does not state or imply that Favre broke any applicable law or that he failed to provide promotional services [the nonprofit].”
Favre, 52, repaid $1.1 million given to him by New’s organization, but the state says he still owes interest on the $228,000 debt. The retired quarterback, a Southern Miss graduate, has insisted he doesn’t know the source of funding for the volleyball project.
Bryant’s filing also states that in the July 28, 2019 text exchange, Favre “expanded his application for MDHS funding” to include a new football facility to lure Deion Sanders’ son, coveted quarterback Shedeur, to Southern Miss.
“As I suspected, Deion’s son asked where the interior was and I said [we] but have none [we] hoping to break ground in less than 2 years,” Favre wrote to Bryant, according to the filing. “Well, that won’t happen without your help/dedication!!! I know we need to complete the vball first and with that I’m asking a lot and I 100% believe that if you can do this Nancy can reach many and help them in the recruitment war [a new indoor practice facility] will give USM[‘s football program] instant credibility and [USM football will] become relevant again.”
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/34656657/brett-favre-pressed-facility-funding-being-told-legality-question-court-filing-says Brett Favre pressed for facility funding despite being told legality in question, court filing says