“I just left Brett Farve (sic). Can we help him with his project,” Bryant wrote to Nancy New, the founder of the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, in a July 2019 post. should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your plans on track.”
In a separate conversation nearly two years prior, Favre wrote to New about his concerns about media advertising.
“If you were to pay me, would the media know where it came from and how much? Favre wrote in an August 2017 post.
“No, we never had that information made public,” New said.
The next day, New texted Favre with an update, “Wow, I just hung up on Phil Bryant! He’s on board with us! We’re gonna do it!”
More than two years later, Bryant texted New asking if she got one of the new programs through the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS). New replied, in part, that “someone” was “definitely shooting for us behind the scenes,” and thanked Bryant. He replied with a smiling emoji.
The text messages were included in a legal filing Monday in a civil lawsuit filed by Mississippi DHS over misdirected social funds. Attorney Thomas Bufkin, who represents The nonprofit New Mississippi Community Education Center, one of the defendants, included the texts as part of a motion to compel Bryant to produce other documents.
In April, New and his son were convicted for their role in a scheme to use social funds to build the volleyball center. Neither Bryant nor Favre have been charged with wrongdoing.
Bryant’s attorney, William M. Quin II, released a statement in response to the filing.
“Governor Bryant has advised Nancy New’s attorney that he will produce the requested documents even though he is not a party to the lawsuit. All documents are confidential, so Governor Bryant has requested that New’s attorney agree a protective order that would allow the documents to be used in court with certain reasonable restrictions,” Quin said.
“Cases should be tried in courts where the rules of evidence govern and privileges are respected. They should not be tried in the press, where innuendo and speculation sometimes get confused with the real facts. It seems that the New’s attorney prefers to try his client’s case in the second as opposed to the first.”
Favre’s attorney, Bud Holmes, denied any wrongdoing. “From the very 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 gave 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 “questioned”, meaning it was definitely mis-spent or auditors were unable to determine if it was legally spent. Most of the money, given over three years from 2016 to 2019, came from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, state auditor Shad White said.
Among the expenses “questioned” are a series of payments made to Favre by the Mississippi Community Education Center.
The audit shows Favre Enterprises received $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018 in exchange for speaking at several events. The auditor’s report, however, states that “after a cursory review of these dates, the auditors were able to determine that the contracted person did not speak or be present at these events.”
A follow-up audit by a Maryland accounting firm found that more than $77 million had been misused from the state’s welfare program through nonprofits .
Favre, a native of Mississippi, earned millions of dollars during his stellar NFL career from 1991 to 2010, primarily as a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
“I never received money for obligations I didn’t fulfill,” Favre said in a tweet in May 2020. “…I was unaware that the scattered money was paid from funds not intended for that purpose, and because of that, I am refunding the full amount to Mississippi.”
Holmes, his lawyer, said Wednesday that Favre did not know the source of the funds.
“He had no idea where it came from. When it later turned out that this money he was being paid to speak came from money designed by the government… for the less fortunate or the poor, Brett l ‘reimbursed,” Holmes said.
CNN’s Gregory Lemos and Kelly Mena contributed to this report.