JACKSON, Ms. (AP) — The Mississippi Department of Human Services on Monday changed its demands against retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre to a lawsuit seeking repayment of misspent welfare money intended to help some of the poorest people in the U.S.
The department dropped the $1.1 million demand against Favre, acknowledging that he had already repaid that money for an unfulfilled promise of public speeches. But it made a new demand of up to $5 million against Favre and a university sports foundation, alleging money from an anti-poverty program had been improperly used to pay for a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The volleyball facility was a pet project of Favre’s and he promised to raise money for it. Earlier filings in the civil lawsuit show text exchanges between Favre and others about money being forwarded to the volleyball facility of a nonprofit organization that had contracts with Human Services. But until Monday, the Human Services lawsuit had not attempted to recover money for the facility.
Favre is an alumnus of the University of Southern Mississippi and his daughter began playing volleyball at Hattiesburg school in 2017. The volleyball facility was completed in late 2019.
In a lawsuit Monday, the Department of Human Services acknowledged that Favre has already repaid $1.1 million he received from the Mississippi Community Education Center. The nonprofit had contracts with the department to disburse money through its anti-poverty program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
The organization paid Favre for public speaking to raise money for the volleyball facility, but the state auditor said Favre did not deliver the speeches. The Department of Human Services court said Monday that Favre “may have shot a single twenty-second radio commercial” for that $1.1 million.
“In 2020, Favre received a demand from the Office of State Auditor demanding that the $1.1 million be repaid with interest,” the Human Services court’s new indictment said. “Recognizing that he was not entitled to payment for services never performed with funds intended for needy families, Favre repaid the $1.1 million to the state.”
Auditor Shad White said last week that Favre still owed more than $200,000 in interest on the $1.1 million.
The Human Services court filing Monday said Favre failed to repay $5 million in TANF money “that he orchestrated” to the Mississippi Community Education Center to pay to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation to comply to his guarantee to finance the construction of a university volleyball facility.
The leaders of Mississippi Community Education Center are Nancy New and her son Zachary New. They have both served on the board of directors of the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation, as has Favre.
John Davis, who served as director of the Department of Human Services from 2016 to 2019, agreed to enter into a sham lease with Nancy New and Zachary New to use welfare money to pay for the construction of the volleyball facility, according to the new lawsuit.
Davis pleaded guilty in September to federal and state charges related to bribery of Social Security benefits in what the state’s auditor has called Mississippi’s largest public corruption case in decades. Nancy New and Zachary New pleaded guilty in April to charges of misspending welfare money. All three are awaiting sentencing and have agreed to testify against others.
In a lawsuit on Nov. 28, Favre’s attorney asked a judge to acquit Favre of the Human Services lawsuit seeking to recover millions of dollars in misused welfare funds. The court did not accede to that request.
Favre grew up in Mississippi and played football at the University of Southern Mississippi before embarking on a long career with the Green Bay Packers that included a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. He was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 and played there for a year before playing his last two seasons for the Minnesota Vikings.