(NewsNation) — A former governor of Mississippi was on board in 2017 with a plan by a nonprofit group to pay Brett Favre more than $1 million in welfare grant money so he could help fund a university volleyball facility, court documents show.
The documents were filed Monday by an attorney for the Mississippi Community Education Center, and contain text message between the retired NFL quarterback and the center’s executive director, Nancy New.
It’s alleged that the center misspent at least $77 million in welfare funds, including the $1 million, that was meant to help some of the poorest people in the nation. Instead, the nonprofit used the money as a slush fund, where it was used on pro wrestler appearances, air travel and a volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, NBC News reported. Favre graduated from the university, and has a daughter who plays volleyball there.
New and her son Zachary, who helped run the Mississippi Community Education Center, pleaded guilty in April, and are awaiting sentence. They have agreed to testify against others.
In May, the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a civil lawsuit against Favre, three former pro wrestlers and several other people and businesses to try to recover millions of misspent welfare dollars. Defendants “squandered” more than $20 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families anti-poverty program, the lawsuit alleges.
Federal regulations prohibit states from using TANF money on the construction of buildings.
As first reported by Mississippi Today, texts show Favre was part of the scheme that funneled at least $5 million of welfare funds to build the new volleyball stadium.
Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant also pushed to make the facility a reality, despite consistently denying close involvement in the project, according to the texts, so the parties crafted a workaround agreement that looked like it satisfied the law.
This agreement consisted of the Mississippi Community Education Center entering a $5 million upfront lease to use the university’s athletic facilities for programming — ostensibly for families in need — in exchange for offices inside the new volleyball complex.
Favre texted New to say the governor saw the proposal, but it needed to be reworded to get accepted.
While New had questions about rewording the proposal, she relied on what the governor would tell Favre instead of having a direct conversation with Bryant about it, texts show, according to Mississippi Today.
“I really feel like he is trying to figure out a way to get it done without actually saying it,” Favre said of Bryant.
That money — and another $1.1 million contract — was put toward the construction of the facility.
Favre’s attorney denies his client knew that money came from the welfare fund, describing his client as “honorable throughout this whole thing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.