Thursday December 7, 2023

Brett Favre Lays Blame for Mississippi Welfare Scandal on Former Governor

  • Favre's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the Hall of Fame quarterback and his business from a civil case.
  • Favre denied knowing welfare money was the source of the $8 million of misspent funds linked to him.
Brett Favre sues Shannon Sharpe, Pat McAfee, and Mississippi State Auditor Shad White .
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Brett Favre’s legal team filed a motion to dismiss the Hall of Fame quarterback and his company as defendants in a lawsuit brought by Mississippi’s welfare department over millions of misspent funds, a document that heaps blame for the scheme upon former Gov. Phil Bryant and others. 

Favre is linked to $8 million of those funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a federal program meant to support very low-income families. In the Monday filing, Favre’s lawyers said that the Mississippi Department of Human Services “groundlessly and irresponsibly seeks to blame Favre for its own grossly improper and unlawful handling of welfare funds.”

The filing, however, could have another intention beyond seeking to extricate Favre and Favre Enterprises from the lawsuit filed in May that has more than 30 defendants. 

“Favre’s legal team is laying out their defense for both the state and the feds to potentially deter a criminal indictment,” federal criminal defense attorney Matthew Tympanick told Front Office Sports. “The filing seems to insinuate Favre is a non-participant in this overarching conspiracy.”

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In the motion, Favre’s attorneys wrote their client “is a private citizen with no position in government” unlike Bryant, and the former head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, John Davis. In September, Davis pleaded guilty to state and federal charges for his role in the scheme, and he’s among the defendants in the civil case. 

  • Favre allegedly pushed for $5 million from TANF funds to build a University of Southern Mississippi volleyball center. 
  • Favre was paid $1.1 million (also from TANF funds) to conduct speeches he didn’t perform. He repaid the money before the lawsuit was filed, although he still owes the interest.
  • Thanks to more lobbying by Favre, a pharma company he backed, Prevacus, received $2.1 million. The company, which developed two concussion-related products, was to move its base of operations to Mississippi but ran out of money months after those funds were received, and neither product has made it to market. 

“It’s ludicrous to say that Mr. Favre has been singled out in any way,” said Fletcher Freeman, the spokesperson for the Mississippi auditor’s office led by Shad White, whose 2019 audit first identified the misspent funds. “And as far as our office is concerned, Mr. Favre remains liable for $228,000 in interest for nonperformance of the contract in question.”

TANF funds have strict guidelines on how the money can be used, including a ban on funding construction projects like the Southern Miss volleyball center. Favre’s attorneys said their client had no role in the welfare department and Southern Miss approving a sublease agreement for the funds. 

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Nancy New and her son, Zach, pleaded guilty to funneling the TANF funds from the state through their nonprofit and Favre’s projects. The News are also defendants in the Mississippi lawsuit. 

“Davis and New did not (and could not have) authorized structuring the $5 million in funding as a sublease on their own,” Favre’s attorneys wrote. “They needed and obtained the approval and assistance of other State officials and agencies — including Governor Bryant, the Attorney General, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Southern Miss itself, and the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation.”

Favre has not been charged with a crime, although two sources with knowledge of the matter told FOS that both Favre and Bryant remain of interest to federal investigators. Bryant is also not a defendant in the civil case, although he’s fought a subpoena in the case. 

In a September filing, Bryant’s legal team included several text exchanges between Bryant and Favre — including a previously unknown effort by Favre in 2019 to build a $1.5 million indoor football facility to help recruit Shedeur Sanders, the quarterback prospect son of Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

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