“I just left Brett Farve (sic). Can we help him with his project,” Bryant wrote to Nancy New, founder of the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, in a July 2019 message. “We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on track.”
In an interview nearly two years earlier, Favre wrote to the New about his concerns about media publicity.
“If I were to pay, does the media even know where it came from and how much it is? Favre wrote in an August 2017 post.
“No, we’ve never disclosed that information,” Newk said.
The next day, New texted Favre with an update: “Wow, we just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He’s with us! We’re going to get this!”
More than two years later, Bryant texted New asking if he had gotten any new programs through the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS). New responded, in part, that “somebody” was “definitely doing it for us behind the scenes,” and thanked Bryant. He replied with a smiley emoji.
The text messages were included in a legal filing Monday as part of a civil lawsuit related to misspent welfare funds by the Mississippi DHS. Attorney Thomas Bufkin, representing New’s nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, one of the defendants, included the texts as part of a motion to compel Bryant to produce more documents.
In April, New and his son were convicted of their role in a scheme to use welfare funds to build the volleyball center. Neither Bryant nor Favre have been charged with wrongdoing.
Bryant’s attorney, William M. Quin II, issued a statement in response to the filing.
“Governor Bryant informed Nancy New’s attorney that she would produce the requested documents, even though she was not a party to the lawsuit. All documents are privileged, so Governor Bryant requested that New’s attorney accept a protective order that would allow the documents to be used in court under a reasonable restriction. with some,” Quin said.
“Cases should be tried in the courts, where the rules of evidence are governed and the privilege respected. They should not be tried in the press, where innuendo and speculation are sometimes mixed with the real facts. New’s lawyer seems to prefer to try his client’s case the latter over the former.”
Favre’s attorney, Bud Holmes, denied wrongdoing. “From the beginning, Brett has been honorable from day one to today,” he said.
The University of Southern Mississippi did not respond to a request for comment.
How we got here
The eight-month investigation showed the department awarded more than $98 million to two nonprofits: the Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi.
Of the $98 million, $94 million was “questionable,” meaning it was definitely misspent or auditors could not determine whether it was spent legally. Most of the money awarded in the three years from 2016 to 2019 came from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, state Auditor Shad White said.
Among the “questionable” expenses is a series of payments made to Favre by the Mississippi Community Education Center.
The audit shows Favre Enterprises paid $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018 for speaking engagements at various events. The auditor’s report, however, states that “after a little analysis of these dates, the auditors were able to determine that the person hired did not speak or attend these events.”
A follow-up audit by a Maryland accounting firm found that more than $77 million was misused from the state’s welfare program through nonprofits.
Favre, a native of Mississippi, earned millions of dollars during his illustrious NFL career from 1991 to 2010, primarily as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
“I have never received any money for duties I never fulfilled,” Favre said in a May 2020 tweet. “. . . I did not know that the money that was being dispersed was paid out of funds that were not appropriated for that purpose, and because of that I am returning the full amount to Mississippi.”
Holmes, his attorney, said Wednesday that Favre did not know the source of the funds.
“He had no idea where it was coming from. When it was revealed later, that money he was being paid to speak came out of money the government had designed … for the less fortunate or the poor, Brett gave it back,” Holmes said.
CNN’s Gregory Lemos and Kelly Mena contributed to this report.