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Mississippi DHS Widens Probe on Favre’s Involvement in Facility Funding

  • Former NFL player, current USM Foundation board member Adalius Thomas subpoenaed.
  • Subpoenas seek electronic communications over funding of USM volleyball center.
Shelley Mays / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Mississippi Department of Human Services greatly expanded the scope of its search for information related to Brett Favre’s efforts to fund a $5 million volleyball facility at his alma mater — including seeking info from fellow NFL player Adalius Thomas.

Lawyers for the state’s welfare agency subpoenaed nearly 30 current and former members of the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation, USM’s athletic department and the USM Alumni Association, according to court documents obtained by Front Office Sports. 

The subpoenas seek text, messaging app and email communications with Favre and his associates since January 2017. 

Current USM Athletic Foundation President Leigh Breal, Executive Director Stace Mercier and Treasurer Larry Davis, and USM Athletic Department CFO Christi Holloway were among those targeted in the latest round of subpoenas. 

Thomas, who won Super Bowl titles with the Ravens and Patriots, was also subpoenaed. Thomas starred at USM, was inducted into the school’s Legends Club in 2011, and is currently a foundation board member. 

The subpoenas were issued Friday, immediately after Hinds County Circuit Court Judge E. Faye Peterson denied the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation’s motion to be dismissed as a defendant in the case. 

The foundation faced more than a dozen counts related to an alleged scheme where it received millions of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds from MDHS that were funneled through a non-profit organization. 

The director of MDHS at the time (John Davis) and the heads of the non-profit (Nancy and Zach New) pleaded guilty to state and federal charges for their roles in the scheme. 

MDHS alleged that Favre entered into a handshake agreement to fund the volleyball facility himself before he lobbied then-Gov. Phil Bryant and others to fund the construction using money from the welfare agency. 

Favre “understood” that the money came from a federal welfare program, according to a MDHS filing last year. Favre has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been charged criminally. 

Favre’s daughter played the sport at the school at the time, and, like the foundation, is a defendant in the case.

“The court finds that all claims against the Foundation are sufficiently pled, except for Count 6,” Peterson wrote in her Friday order. 

And getting that one count of negligence dismissed isn’t much of a win for the foundation. 

“Negligence is an unintentional tort,” Peterson wrote. “Unintentional torts are those of an accidental, reckless or careless nature that result in harm to a person. Negligence, specifically, requires the breach of a foreseeable duty or preventable harm. In this instance, Plaintiff MDHS alleges the parties knew the true source of the funds and had a duty to inquire of the true source and to apply the funds in accordance with its intended purpose.”

Earlier this month, former University of Southern Mississippi president and current University of Nebraska Chancellor Rodney Bennett was served with a subpoena. 

Electronic communications have played a major role in the case so far — even if Favre hasn’t produced many himself. In a filing last week, MDHS lawyers stated that Favre has failed to turn over text, messaging app and electronic communications that were subpoenaed months earlier. 

“Despite being identified as the sender or recipient on the face of these text messages, Favre objected and claimed he could not verify many of these text messages’ authenticity,” MDHS lawyers wrote.

A list of the individuals subpoenaed: 

  • Leigh Breal (current Foundation president) 
  • Larry Davis (current Foundation treasurer) 
  • Mike Arrington (former Foundation board member)
  • Christi Holloway (USM Athletic Department CFO)
  • Mack Grubs (USM booster) 
  • Ronn Savell (former Foundation board member) 
  • Larry Payne (former Foundation board member) 
  • Cathay Sessums (former Foundation president) 
  • Dr. Jay Henderson (current VP and President-Elect) 
  • Evan Dillard (former Foundation board member) 
  • Forrest Roberts (at-large Foundation board member) 
  • Wren Hood (former member of Foundation President’s Council) 
  • Joel Johnson (at-large Foundation board member) 
  • Lisa McMahon (former Foundation board member) 
  • Morgan McCarty (booster) 
  • Gary Carmichael (former Foundation board member) 
  • Grant Dyess (former Foundation president) 
  • Gordon McCloskey 
  • Adalius Thomas (current Foundation board member)
  • Wade Walters (former Foundation board member) 
  • Jerry Defatta (former executive director of the Southern Miss Alumni Association) 
  • Tracy Powell (former USM Alumni Association board member, current Foundation board member) 
  • Stace Mercier (Foundation secretary, executive director) 
  • Brian Bledsoe (former director-at-large of Foundation)
  • Alan Lucas (current Foundation board member) 
  • Kami Wert (current Foundation secretary) 
  • Becky Montague (former president of the USM Alumni Association)
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