“I just left Brett Farff (sic). Can we help him with his project?” Bryant wrote to Nancy New, founder of the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, in a letter in July 2019: “Can we help him with his project.” We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on track. the correct.”
In a separate conversation about two years ago, Favre wrote to New about his concerns about media publicity.
“If you’re going to pay me, is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre wrote in a letter in August 2017.
“No, we never made that information public,” Niu said.
The next day, New Favre texted with an update: “Wow, he just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He’s on the plane with us! We’ll get this done!”
More than two years later, Bryant texted Neo to ask if she had gotten any of the new programs through the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS). Neo responded, in part, that “someone” was “definitely pulling us backstage,” and thanked Bryant. He replied with an expressive smile.
The text messages were included in a legal file on Monday as part of a civil lawsuit brought by the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security over poor spending of welfare funds. Attorney Thomas Bofkin, who represents him The nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center in New York, one of the defendants, included the scripts as part of a proposal to force Bryant to produce more documents.
In April, Neo and her son were found guilty of their role in a scheme to use welfare funds to build a volleyball center. Neither Bryant nor Favre has been charged with wrongdoing.
Bryant’s attorney, William M. Quinn II, a statement in response to the lawsuit.
“Governor Bryant has informed Nancy Neue’s attorney that he will submit the requested documents even though he is not a party to the lawsuit. All documents are privileged, so Governor Bryant has requested that Neo’s attorney agree to a protective order allowing the documents to be used in court with certain reasonable restrictions.”
“Cases should be tried in courts that govern rules of evidence and respect privileges. They should not be tried in the press, where insinuations and speculation are sometimes confused with actual facts. It seems New’s lawyer would prefer to try his client’s case in the latter versus the former.”
Favre’s attorney, Bud Holmes, denied any wrongdoing. “From the beginning, Brett has been a supervisor from day one until today,” he said.
The University of Southern Mississippi did not respond to a request for comment.
How did we get here
The eight-month investigation showed that the administration provided more than $98 million to two nonprofit organizations: the Mississippi Community Education Center and the North Mississippi Family Resource Center.
Of the $98 million, $94 million was “questioned,” meaning it either misspent or auditors were unable to determine whether it was spent legally. State auditor Chad White said most of the money, awarded over a three-year period, from 2016 to 2019, came from the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families.
Among the “questionable” spending was a series of payments made to Favre by the Mississippi Community Education Center.
The audit shows that Favre Enterprises earned $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018 for giving speeches at multiple events. However, the auditor’s report notes that “Based on a quick review of those dates, the auditors were able to determine that the individual contracted with did not speak and was not present for these events.”
A follow-up review by a Maryland accounting firm found that more than $77 million was improperly used from the state’s welfare program through nonprofits.
A native of Mississippi, Favre made millions of dollars during his 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 money for commitments I have not fulfilled,” Favre said in a May 2020 tweet. From that, I will return the full amount to Mississippi.”
His attorney, Holmes, said Wednesday that Favre did not know the source of the money.
“He had no idea where it came from,” Holmes said. “When it later emerged that the money he got for speaking came from money designed by the government…for the poor or less fortunate, Brett paid it.”
CNN’s Gregory Lemos and Kelly Mina contributed to this report.
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