Phil Bryant helps Brett Favre get volleyball court benefit money

Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant helped Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre secure welfare funds to help build a volleyball center at Southern Mississippi University, according to a Mississippi TODAY investigative report.

The outlet reviewed texts from 2017 and 2019 filed Monday in a lawsuit filed in Mississippi over misuse of welfare funds. The filing was filed by attorneys representing Nancy New, who founded the Mississippi Community Education Center, which will spend tens of millions of dollars in federal welfare funds to help the state. New pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts of bribery, fraud and extortion in what state auditors determined was the largest case of public fraud in Mississippi history, with nonprofit leaders embezzling at least $77 million.

The texts allegedly showed Favre, New and Bryant discussing how to spend at least $5 million on a volleyball court in Miss South, where Favre played college football and his daughter played volleyball at the time of some of the texts. .

“If you pay me, can the media find out where it came from and how much?” Favre asked New in 2017, according to a text message. She replied “We never made this information public” and told him the next day, “Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He’s with us! We’ll get this done!” “

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

Favre’s lawyer denied his client knew he received welfare funds. “Brett Favre is honored with the whole thing,” Bud Holmes told Mississippi TODAY. In 2020, Favre told the media that he had not discussed the stadium with Bryant, which was not part of the state’s lawsuit.

Favre and Bryant left office in January 2020 without criminal charges, and Bryant did not mention the texts in a statement to Mississippi Today. In it, he accused New’s defense team of “focusing more on pretrial advocacy than civil justice.” New’s motion is the first time the defendants have directly and publicly accused Bryant of wrongdoing.

Favre paid back $600,000 to the state last year for never speaking on a $1.1 million deal he struck in 2017 and 2018 to promote a poverty alleviation initiative. State auditors reported that he initially repaid $500,000, and in May the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a lawsuit against Favre, alleging $228,000 in interest on the $1.1 million.

States are barred from using funds from the federal TANF program for “physical” construction, and efforts to circumvent federal regulations to build volleyball courts have led to criminal convictions.

Nancy New’s son Zach New pleaded guilty to defrauding the government in an April plea deal when he participated in a scheme “to disguise USM construction projects as ‘leases’ to circumvent limited-purpose grants that strictly prohibit ‘brick and mortar construction projects’ Violated Miss. Code Ann. 97-7-10.”

Favre was briefly questioned by the FBI more than two years ago, Mississippi Today reported last week. Holmes told the outlet that Favre was asked a question, which he believes has not been interviewed since. The Mississippi Community Education Center hired Favre Enterprises to make appearances in 2017 and 2018 to promote Family First for Mississippi, a program designed to help families in need for whom Favre was not present.

In 2020, the former NFL quarterback denied that he “received money because of obligations I didn’t fulfill,” saying, “I love Mississippi and I would never knowingly do anything to take away from those who need it most. .”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation, with 20.3 percent of people living below the poverty line. The national poverty rate in the United States is 13.4%.

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