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a photo of Brett Favre with Tate Reeves and Phil Bryant
Retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre, left, pushed both former Gov. Phil Bryant, right, and Gov. Tate Reeves, center, to help him obtain state funding to pay for a volleyball stadium he had pledged to fund at the University of Southern Mississippi, according to multiple texts and documents included in September 2022 court filings. Photo Gov. Tate Reeves/Twitter

Mississippi Welfare Scandal Timeline: Brett Favre and the Volleyball Stadium

Between 2016 and 2019, the Mississippi Department of Human Services and nonprofits associated with it allegedly misspent more than tens of millions of dollars in federal Temporary Assistance For Needy Families funds that should have gone to the poorest families in the poorest state. More than $5 million of those funds went toward a volleyball-stadium project at the University of Southern Mississippi favored by retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre and $1.1 million went to Favre himself.

This timeline focuses on that element of the welfare scandal, including text messages with Favre and others revealed in court filings by former Gov. Phil Bryant and by Nancy New’s nonprofit, the Mississippi Community Education Center. The text messages are not a complete record, however; Bryant’s texts include redactions; New’s texts do not indicate redactions, but nevertheless appear to leave out important exchanges. When necessary, text exchanges that were spread across multiple pages in the court filings have been stitched together.

Though New, former MDHS Director John Davis, and four others have faced criminal charges, prosecutors have not accused Favre nor Bryant of a crime.

Jan. 24, 2015
Oak Grove High School To Build Volleyball Stadium
The Lamar County School District’s board approved a $1.4-million project to build a new volleyball facility at Oak Grove High School, where Brett Favre’s daughter, Breleigh Favre, attends and plays volleyball. A WDAM story says “many community members will be sponsoring the facility including Brett and DeAnna Favre.”

That year, Favre’s nonprofit for “disadvantaged children,” Favre4Hope, gives $60,000 to the Oak Grove Booster Club to help fund the facility.

Jan. 24, 2015
Dec. 31, 2015
Favre4Hope Gives to Oak Grove, USM
By year’s end, Brett Favre’s charity for “disadvantaged children,” Favre4Hope, has given $60,000 to the Oak Grove Booster Club and $12,500 to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation, later charity filings show. The Daily Beast will report years later in September 2022 that the Oak Grove donation was to support the high school’s volleyball facility. The USM Athletic Foundation donation is similar to the $12,000 that Favre’s charity gave the foundation a year earlier in 2014.
Dec. 31, 2015
a photo of John Davis, a man with a balding head in a blue suit and tie in front of a sign that says MDHS
Jan. 11, 2016
Gov. Phil Bryant Appoints John Davis to MDHS
Gov. Phil Bryant announces that John Davis, a longtime MDHS employee, will replace outgoing Mississippi Department of Human Services Executive Director Ricky Berry after he retires on Jan. 31, 2016. The press release notes that Davis, like Bryant, is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and a resident of Brookhaven.

“My life has been dedicated to serving others and I believe this is a great opportunity to continue that work,” Davis says. Bryant says Davis “will serve the people of Mississippi well in his new role.”

Jan. 11, 2016
a photo of John Davis, a man with a balding head in a blue suit and tie in front of a sign that says MDHS
Feb. 1, 2016
John Davis’ First Day As MDHS Director
John Davis begins his job as MDHS director. Following Davis’ appointment, MDHS will begin issuing multi-million-dollar lump sums to Mississippi Community Education Center, a nonprofit founded and run by Nancy New that says its mission is “for the promotion, improvement and expansion of community education through training seminars, consulting services and technical assistance.”
Feb. 1, 2016
June 2, 2016
MDHS Approves $1 Million TANF Extension For MCEC
The Mississippi Department of Human Services approves an extension of $1 million in Temporary Assistance For Needy Families funds to Nancy New’s nonprofit, the Mississippi Community Education Center, to use to operate a Families First Resource Center. The federal government gives TANF funds to states in federal block grants to help assist poor families.

Families First is a state initiative that is supposed to address the needs of struggling families by directing them to resources and services that will create more stable homes and improve the lives of children.

June 2, 2016
Oct. 18, 2016
Ribbon Cutting For Families First Mississippi
Gov. Phil Bryant, First Lady Deborah Bryant, MDHS Director John Davis and Nancy New attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a Families First Mississippi office in Jackson. Families First is an initiative consisting of several nonprofits, including New’s Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center.

“Families First reaches into communities and organizations across the state,” New says. “Businesses, schools, churches, where we offer different types of training and services such as parenting education, job readiness, literacy for k-12, and GED services.”

Oct. 18, 2016
Nov. 16, 2016
MCEC Receives $4.9 Million In TANF Funds
For the first time, MDHS transfers a large lump-sum payment to Nancy New’s Mississippi Community Education Center using TANF funds. The $4.9-million transfer is designated for Families First For Mississippi projects. It’s the first of a series of lump-sum payments that MCEC will receive under John Davis’ tenure at MDHS.
Nov. 16, 2016
Dec. 31, 2016
Favre4Hope Gives $10,000 to USM Athletic Foundation
By year’s end, Brett Favre’s charity for “disadvantaged children,” Favre4Hope, has given $10,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation—slightly less than it gave in 2014 and 2015.
Dec. 31, 2016
April 13, 2017
MDHS Approves Just 1.42% of TANF Applicants
ThinkProgress breaks the news that the Mississippi Department of Human Services approved Temporary Assistance For Needy Families applications for just 167 out of 11,700 families who applied in 2016. The 1.42% acceptance rate is the lowest in the country for the welfare program, which at the time gives poor families who meet strict criteria just $170 a month for a family of three. This is despite the fact that Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation.

The report notes that, between 2003 and 2010, the State rejected roughly half of applicants before the rejection rate soared to 89% in 2011 and continued climbing.

April 13, 2017
a text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant about the volleyball project
April 20, 2017
‘I Need Your Influence’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant. “Deanna and I are building a volleyball facility on campus (at the University of Southern Mississippi) and I need your influence somehow to get donations and or sponsorships,” the retired NFL star writes, according to text messages Bryant will later reveal in a Sept. 23, 2022, court filing. “Obviously Southern has no money so I’m hustling to get it raised. We want to start this summer and finish it in a year or less.”

The governor tells Favre that he has just returned from a trip to Cuba and says that he is “all in” on the volleyball project. “We will have that thing built before you know it. One thing I know how to do is raise money 👍,” Bryant writes. The conversations include no mention of using public funds for the volleyball facility.

April 20, 2017
a text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant about the volleyball project
April 24, 2017
‘I Don’t Want To Waste Your Time’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant, saying that his friend Poncho James, a member of the USM Athletic Foundation Board of Directors, can “come in the morning if your (sic) not busy,” according to Bryant’s Sept. 23, 2022, court documents. Bryant tells him that he is turkey hunting at that time, but can meet for lunch on Wednesday, April 26.
April 24, 2017
May 13, 2017
Breleigh Favre Graduates from Oak Grove High School
Brett Favre’s daughter Breleigh Favre graduates from Oak Grove High School, where she played volleyball.
May 13, 2017
June 7, 2017
Assistant AG Recommends MCEC Lease Approval
Special Assistant Attorney General Stephanie L. Ganucheau, who works for Democratic Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, recommends that the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning approve a lease between the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation, including a sublease with MCEC for use of campus facilities. Y’all Politics will later first report on the document in September 2022.
June 7, 2017
text message screenshot
July 18, 2017
‘A Pleasure To Meet You Guys’
Brett Favre meets for the first time with MCEC Director Nancy New. In a text message afterward included in later MCEC court filings in September 2022, New tells Favre that it was “[g]reat to talk with you through this.”

“Thank you for all that you are doing and we plan to work hard to make this happen.” Favre responds, “Likewise Nancy very much a pleasure to meet you guys.”

July 18, 2017
text message screenshot
text message screenshot
July 19, 2017
‘He’s Loving What We Are Doing’
MDHS Director John Davis sends Nancy New a text message, MCEC’s Sept. 30, 2022, court filings show. He tells her that he has been with Gov. Phil Bryant for the “last two days” and that the governor is “loving what we are doing.”
July 19, 2017
text message screenshot
a photo of Phil Bryant and Brett Favre
July 21, 2017
‘You Are The Governor And On Our Side’
According to Gov. Phil Bryant’s later court filings, Brett Favre texts him, saying that he is not “sure how we can help you get this facility built for Vball.” “But you are the governor and on our side and that’s a good thing. Actually a great thing,” Favre writes.

"We can do that,” Bryant replies. “Just get me some numbers and I’ll find a way. Maybe USM or the Coach can call me and we’ll get on it. 👍”

Favre tells Bryant that he will have USM Athletic Director Jon Gilbert “give you everything you need.” Favre and Bryant are pictured here in 2015 (Phil Bryant/Twitter).

July 21, 2017
a photo of Phil Bryant and Brett Favre
July 22, 2017
‘I’m Trying To Get Sponsors, Donations Etc’
Brett Favre sends another text message to Gov. Phil Bryant sharing his “latest plans,” according to later court filings. “I’m trying to get sponsors,donations etc….if we can find a contractor that would say hey rather than give you money I’ll build for free!! Maybe you know of someone,” Favre writes.

“I (sic) all over it 💪,” the governor responds.

July 22, 2017
July 24, 2017
USM Meeting
Brett Favre, John Davis, MCEC’s Nancy New, retired pro-wrestler Teddy DiBiase, Jr., USM athletic staff, and officials from MCEC and MDHS meet at the University of Southern Mississippi. A later MCEC court filing in September 2022 will say this is “supposedly” the “first time” Favre asks “MDHS for funding for his volleyball facility” and that Davis “immediately” agrees to commit $4 million in Temporary Assistance For Needy Families funds to construct it.
July 24, 2017
July 24, 2017
‘John Mentioned 4 Million’
After the USM meeting, Brett Favre texts Nancy New to thank her and says John Davis “mentioned 4 million,” later MCEC court filings in September 2022 show. According to MCEC’s filings, the $4-million figure referred to Temporary Assistance For Needy Families welfare funds that Davis pledged to use to build a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, though Favre’s publicly known texts do not show him specifically referencing the money as TANF funds.
July 24, 2017
July 24, 2017
‘A PSA Is One Option’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New to say he wants “to help” her and “was thinking a PSA is one option that could be done quick and easy to put together.☺️,” according to MCEC’s Sept. 12, 2022, court filings. The text does not show Nancy New’s immediate response.

Favre, the court filing claims, was concerned that the $4 million John Davis pledged would not be enough to build the stadium and was looking for ways to raise additional money himself.

July 24, 2017
July 24, 2017
‘The First Phase Could Be $500,000’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New to tell her he “could record a few radio spots here initially” and “whatever compensation could go to USM,” MCEC’s court filings show. Nancy New tells him the “first phase could be $500,000 and after Sept. we can renew” and says her son, Zach New, can get him a Memorandum of Agreement.
July 24, 2017
July 24, 2017
‘My Biggest Concern is Time Commitment’
After Nancy New explains to Brett Favre what an “MOA” is, the texts included in MCEC’s court filings show that he tells her that his “biggest concern” with doing work for MCEC is “time commitment.” New tells him not to “worry about your time commitment” and promises the work will only require “a few things here and there, spread out.”
July 24, 2017
text message screenshot
July 26, 2017
‘He Is Very Leary (Sic) Of Accepting Such A Large Grant’
Brett Favre sends a text message to Nancy New to tell her that he has spoken with USM Athletic Director John Gilbert and that the university official “is very Leary (sic) of accepting such a large grant,” according to Sept. 30, 2022, MCEC court filings.

“Got me very uneasy,” Favre writes. “He did mention trying to find a way for John to allocate money to an entity that could then give to us that would pay for brick and mortar. I passed some info to John and of course he sent back we will find a way to make it work.”

July 26, 2017
text message screenshot
text message screenshot
July 29, 2017
‘To Get Ahead In The Game’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New asking if he needs “to involve the governor and or Dr.B if need be.” He tells her that USM Athletic Director Jon Gilbert said the money New “allocated” to the athletic department “thus far … could raise negative concerns etc.”

“My fear is he doesn’t except (sic) all that you and John can allocate even if it is legally signed off on,” Favre writes. “It’s obvious that you and John are tremendous assets for USM and in order for us to get ahead in the game we have to utilize you guys in every way.”

July 29, 2017
text message screenshot
text message screenshot
Aug. 2, 2017
‘They Are Scared To Death It Seems’
“Yeah I hear ya. They are scared to death it seems👎,” Brett Favre writes in a text message to Nancy New. The text, included in a Sept. 30, 2022, MCEC court filing, does not show New’s preceding message nor any response, but the filing says Favre’s message was “regarding USM’s concerns.”
Aug. 2, 2017
text message screenshot
Aug. 2, 2017
‘The Facility Is Gonna Be More Than We Thought’
“John said you guys have a big meeting Monday with the university,” Brett Favre texts Nancy New, according to messages included in MCEC’s court filings. He tells her that it “Looks as though the facility is gonna be more than we thought which is always the case.” The filings do not indicate a response from New.
Aug. 2, 2017
Aug. 3, 2017
‘Is There Anyway The Media Can Find Out?’
"If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?" Brett Favre asks Nancy New in a text message, according to MCEC court filings. New says, "No, we never have had that information publicized” but that she understands him “being uneasy about that though.”
Aug. 3, 2017
Aug. 4, 2017
‘Just Got Off The Phone With Phil Bryant’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to say they “just got off the phone with” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, the MCEC court filings show. “He is on board with us! We will get this done!” she tells Favre. “Awesome I needed to hear that for sure,” he replies.
Aug. 4, 2017
Aug. 10, 2017
‘Wow wow wow!! Great news’
Nancy New claims that Dr. Gordon Cannon at the University of Southern Mississippi told her “we are moving forward to get this done,” according to texts shown in MCEC’s court filings. New tells Brett Favre that she replied that she was “so excited for this opportunity for Southern!” Favre welcomes the news with enthusiasm.
Aug. 10, 2017
Aug. 19, 2017
‘Meetings Went Well’
In a text message revealed in MCEC’s court filings, Nancy New tells Brett Favre that she “got a call yesterday from Gordon Cannon that their meetings went well on accepting the money, etc.” She says that there will be another meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, “with MDHS attorney and USM to make sure all the wording is good before it goes to IHL,” referring to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning which oversees Mississippi’s colleges and universities. Favre tells her that “(USM Athletics Director) John Gilbert said the same thing yesterday.🙏”
Aug. 19, 2017
Aug. 21, 2017
Breleigh Favre To Begin USM Volleyball Career
WDAM reports that Breleigh Favre is set to begin college at the University of Southern Mississippi during the fall semester and that she will be joining the USM women’s volleyball team.
Aug. 21, 2017
Aug. 23, 2017
‘Just Finished The Meeting’
In a text message, Nancy New shares to Brett Favre a message she says she received from Gordon Cannon after the meeting confirming that the project is moving forward, MCEC court filings show. The filings do not indicate a reply from Favre.
Aug. 23, 2017
Oct. 4, 2017
MCEC Gets $21 Million TANF Subgrant
MDHS Director John Davis signs a $21-million subgrant with Nancy New’s Community Education Center to run Families First in South Mississippi for the next year. A later modification will reduce it to $18.8 million.
Oct. 4, 2017
Oct. 9, 2017
Assistant AG Recommends Volleyball Lease Approval
Special Assistant Attorney General Stephanie L. Ganucheau again recommends that the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning approve a lease between the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation for the volleyball stadium, as Y’all Politics later reports in September 2022.
Oct. 9, 2017
Oct. 19, 2017
IHL Approves Contract for Volleyball Stadium
After the attorney general’s recommendation, the USM lease with Nancy New’s nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center gains the approval of USM and the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees public colleges and universities. The IHL board minutes indicate that the sublease between MCEC and the Athletic Foundation would use funds obtained “via a Block Grant from the Mississippi Department of Human Services.”

The minutes say MCEC was “designed to provide schools, communities and families with educational services and training programs” and “will use the subject facilities to support their programming efforts for South Mississippi.”

Oct. 19, 2017
Oct. 19, 2017
‘We Will Get The Rest’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to tell him that IHL has approved the volleyball project, but court filings show that Favre tells her that Jon Gilbert told him $500,000 must go to renovations for USM’s Reed Green Coliseum and another $500,000 to a “maintenance fund.”

New assures Favre “we will get the rest” and mentions holding a fundraiser, MCEC’s court filings show. She tells Favre she will send him a “draft proposal to do a couple psa’s, etc. for Families First,” referring to the initiative that includes her nonprofit, MCEC.

Oct. 19, 2017
a photo of a brick and mortar building with the word "Wellness Center" above several columns on the front
Oct. 19, 2017
‘Proud And Honored To Announce This Facility’
USM Athletics Director Jon Gilbert announces the upcoming volleyball stadium, which will be called the Wellness Center. In a statement he says it “is certain to be a point of pride, as it stands to serve our student-athletes, our student body and community constituents for years to come.”
Oct. 19, 2017
a photo of a brick and mortar building with the word "Wellness Center" above several columns on the front
Nov. 2, 2017
‘I Saw The Gov Last Night’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to tell him she “saw the Gov last night,” MCEC court filings show. “We will still plan the fundraiser as well when we can get another date from him that works with your time, too.” She promises that “it’s all going to work out.” Favre tells her he is “ready.”
Nov. 2, 2017
Nov. 2, 2017
Lease Agreement In Effect
The lease agreement for the volleyball stadium, including the sublease with MCEC, becomes effective.
Nov. 2, 2017
Nov. 6, 2017
MCEC Makes First Volleyball Payment
Nancy New’s Community Education Center transfers $2.5 million in TANF funds to the USM Athletic Foundation to pay for the volleyball stadium’s construction, a later audit will show.
Nov. 6, 2017
December 5, 2017
MCEC Makes Second Volleyball Payment
Nancy New’s Community Education Center transfers another $2.5 million to the USM Athletic Foundation to pay for the volleyball stadium’s construction, a later audit will show. This brings the total TANF funds used for the volleyball stadium’s construction to $5 million.
December 5, 2017
Dec. 27, 2017
‘Nancy Santa Came Today’
Brett Favre receives his first $500,000 check from MCEC and texts Nancy New to thank her: "Nancy Santa came today and dropped some money off☺️☺️ thank you my goodness thank you. We need to setup the promo for you soon. Your way to kind," he tells her, according to MCEC court filings.

New tells Favre that after the holidays, they can “get our calendars together on a few activities,” but “if we asked you to do something and you can’t, it is ok. We will get it all worked out.”

Dec. 27, 2017
Dec. 27, 2017
Beach Volleyball Enters The Chat
MCEC court filings show that, for the first time, Nancy New’s and Brett Favre’s texts mention beach volleyball, referring to an effort to get funding for new beach volleyball courts at USM and to start a beach volleyball team, separate from the indoor volleyball teams.
Dec. 27, 2017
Dec. 31, 2017
Favre4Hope Gives $10,000 to USM Athletic Foundation
By year’s end, Brett Favre’s charity for “disadvantaged children,” Favre4Hope, has given $10,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation—the same as in 2016.
Dec. 31, 2017
March 28, 2018
‘The Bids Are In’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New to give her an update on the volleyball project and tells her that the lowest bid for a contract to complete the work is “shockingly” $6.9 million, MCEC court filings show. New calls the information about the high cost “disturbing.”

“”Well, let’s see what the lowest bid comes back with and then if we need to, we will roll up our sleeves and get the rest,” she writes. “We can still have the fundraiser at the Governor’s mansion, too. We can use Phil’s business list that he offered earlier. I will be thinking and hopefully there will be something in the new budget for Families First to offer.”

March 28, 2018
screenshot of a text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant includes a phot oof Phil Bryant holding two turkeys
May 9, 2018
‘I’m Still Trying To Save Money On Vball Facility’
Brett Favre sends another text message to governor Bryant, the governor’s later court filings show. “Governor this is Brett,” he writes. “I’m still trying to save money on Vball facility. We have visitor and Home lockers yet to build and Warren Hood is donating any lumber. If someone would build them on there (sic) spare time. Poncho mentioned the prison industry possibly as a builder. The architects can provide all specs.”

The governor tells Favre he is turkey hunting in Nebraska, but will “get on it.” He sends Favre a photo of himself in camouflage holding two turkeys.

May 9, 2018
screenshot of a text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant includes a phot oof Phil Bryant holding two turkeys
May 19, 2018
‘I Will Pay For The Work’
“Where can I send a donation for the Volleyball Complex?” Gov. Phil Bryant asks Brett Favre in a partially redacted text conversation included in Bryant’s later court filings. Favre gives him the address for the USM Foundation.

Later, Bryant texts Favre to update him on the lockers for the volleyball facility. “I got Chuck Davis in Laurel ready to come down and get on the Lockers,” Bryant writes. “He is a cabinet builder and does all the work for Ben Napier on their (HGTV show) HOME TOWN. … If someone will give him a call he will get on it and I will pay for the work 👍 … I am also going to reach out to Ponch and see if we can’t get a fundraiser in Hattiesburg put together 👍”

The text does not include mention of using public funds.

May 19, 2018
June 2018
Favre Receives Second Payment
Brett Favre receives his second payment from the Mississippi Community Education Center in the amount of $600,000. Like the first $500,000 check MCEC paid Favre in December 2017, the nonprofit pays him using federal TANF welfare funds. None of the publicly available text messages that include Favre as a sender or recipient explicitly state that the funds are TANF funds, however.
June 2018
June 24, 2018
WDAM Reports on USM Beach Volleyball
A WDAM report says that a $250,000 beach volleyball project “funded through private donations” is expanding a pre-existing recreational outdoor court with “new netting, new fencing” and a special grade of sand. The courts will be used for the new beach volleyball team.
June 24, 2018
Oct. 12, 2018
MCEC Gets $10.6 Million TANF Subgrant
MDHS Director John Davis signs a $10.6-million subgrant with Nancy New’s Community Education Center to run Families First in South Mississippi for the next year.
Oct. 12, 2018
Oct. 14, 2018
Breleigh Favre’s Last Indoor Volleyball Match
Breleigh Favre plays her final indoor volleyball match on the Golden Eagles Women’s Volleyball team.
Oct. 14, 2018
Oct. 29, 2018
Beach Volleyball Team Makes Debut
The new Golden Eagles beach volleyball team makes its debut in a fall tournament.
Oct. 29, 2018
Dec. 2018
Gov. Bryant Gives Nancy New ‘Service’ Award
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant gives Nancy New the Mississippi Meritorious Civilian Service Award, which the Northside Sun describes as “the second highest award granted by Gov. Phil Bryant and Adjutant General Janson Boyles to civilian personnel.”

The Northside Sun publishes a photo from MDHS showing New posing with Boyles to her right, next to Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant, MDHS Deputy Director Chip Butler, Republican U.S. House Rep. Michael Guest and Umesh Sanjanwala, who works for U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s office.

Dec. 2018
Dec. 10, 2018
‘An Evening of Christmas Cheer’
Nancy New hosts “An Evening of Christmas Cheer” fundraising event for Women for Southern Miss at the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson.
Dec. 10, 2018
Dec. 31, 2018
Favre Charity Gives $60,000 to USM Athletic Foundation
At year’s end, Brett Favre’s nonprofit for “disadvantaged children,” Favre4Hope, has given $60,000 to the USM Athletic Foundation for the year. It represents a dramatic jump from the $10,000 to $12,500 he gave the foundation yearly between 2014 and 2017.
Dec. 31, 2018
Jan. 1, 2019
‘They Also Want to Discuss The New Facility At USM’
John Davis schedules a meeting, saying that it “was requested by Brett Favre and the Governor to discuss the Educational Research Program that addresses brain injury caused by concussions. They also want to discuss the new facility at USM.” After bad weather prevents Favre from flying to Jackson, New and Davis drive to meet with him at his mansion near Hattiesburg instead.

No details of the meeting are provided, but in Phil Bryant’s Sept. 23, 2022, court filing, Bryant will later say he “did not request the meeting, did not attend the meeting, did not participate in the meeting, and has no knowledge of what was discussed.”

Jan. 1, 2019
Jan. 12, 2019
‘Ben Helped Us With The Lockers’
Gov. Phil Bryant sends a text message to Brett Favre including a Facebook post about the season 3 premiere of HGTV’s hometown, based in Laurel, Miss. “Please retweet,” Bryant writes. “Ben (Napier) helped us with the lockers for the Volleyball Complex. He and Erin’s show in Laurel is doing great.” Favre responds: “You bet.”
PB
Jan. 12, 2019
a photo of a sandy volleyball court with a fence to the left that says "Southern Miss Beach Volleyball"
Jan. 17, 2019
USM Volleyball Team Announces Inaugural Schedule
The Golden Eagles Beach Volleyball Team announces its inaugural schedule with Breleigh Favre as one of the team members. The first game is set for Feb. 22, 2019. (Photo of USM's beach volleyball courts by Ashton Pittman)
Jan. 17, 2019
May 15, 2019
‘We Almost Have Final Plans For The Beach’
Brett Favre sends a text message to Nancy New, MCEC court filings show, telling her that he asked the college for “an update on what is owed as of today.” He reports that $1,070,000 is owed, but not immediately. “And we almost have the final plans for the beach. They look great,” he writes. “Of course you can help out again. And regardless I owe you big time. 😌” New tells him that the “amount is not too bad” and that she “can’t wait to hear about the plans for the beach.”
May 15, 2019
May 30, 2019
‘We Are On Board!’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New asking for an update and if she is “still confident (she) can cover the 1.8 number,” adding that the “number will probably get less as we get closer,” MCEC court filings show. Later, Nancy New responds: “Morning. In a meeting with John Davis now. He said we will cover much of it but may have to be in a couple of payments. We are on board!”
May 30, 2019
June 21, 2019
Gov. Bryant Alerts Auditor of Potential MDHS Fraud
After MDHS Deputy Director Jacob Black informs Gov. Phil Bryant of an alleged instance of fraud risk involving John Davis and Brett DiBiase Jr., the governor alerts Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, whom he had appointed a year earlier in 2018. An investigation begins that will snowball into a much wider-ranging probe.
June 21, 2019
June 26, 2019
‘I Am Feeling Good’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New another update, the Sept. 12, 2022, MCEC court documents show: “Nancy as of today the number is 1.95 mill for everything.” She tells him she is “working on this and hope(s) to have some relief after the first of July.” He tells her the amount is for both the volleyball facility and beach volleyball.
June 26, 2019
July 2, 2019
Nancy New Meets With Phil Bryant
Nancy New sends a text message to Gov. Phil Bryant to ask if she could meet with him later that morning, MCEC court filings show. “It is truly important and I do appreciate any time you may have to give me.” He tells her that he can meet her “at 8:30 at the Sillers Office.” She says she will be there.
July 2, 2019
a photo of Nancy New, Phil Bryant and John Davis
July 8, 2019
MDHS Announces John Davis’ ‘Retirement’
The Mississippi Department of Human Services announces that John Davis is stepping down from his role as executive director and leaving the department after working there in some capacity for 28 years. The MDHS press announcement calls him “an inspiration to many” and says the department “has benefited from his leadership and visionary approach.” Gov. Bryant praises Davis in a statement.

But in his court filing, Davis’ nephew, Austin Smith, will claim that “shortly before John Davis resigned as director of DHS, John Davis explained to family members that Governor Bryant had told him (John Davis) that he (John Davis) was going to ‘fucking jail.’”

July 8, 2019
a photo of Nancy New, Phil Bryant and John Davis
July 16, 2019
‘I Am Ok, Just Politics And People’
“Nancy if I can help you in any way you know I will. Please know that,” Brett Favre says in a text message to Nancy New, MCEC court filings show. She responds by thanking him. “I am ok, just politics and people,” she writes. But New adds that she has concerns that she will not be able to “assist” Favre in August as planned, but that she “will continue to work on it for sure.”
July 16, 2019
July 16, 2019
‘I Can Try And Delay As Long As Possible’
The Sept. 12, 2022, MCEC court filings show that Brett Favre texts Nancy New again to tell her that he “can try and delay as long as possible if you think that would help” and says “The beach is at least 6 months away from payment.” New agrees and says it will give her time to “work some other angles for us.”

Favre texts her several hours later to say he is “meeting with Governor Bryant” and asks if there is anything he can “say to him that could help.” New says to tell Bryant “how much we work together on youth development, sports programs that instill leadership and future work skills.”

July 16, 2019
A text message from Brett Favre to Phil Bryant
July 16, 2019
‘Had To Make A Change’
After his exchange with Nancy New, Brett Favre sends a text message to Gov. Phil Bryant, the governor’s later court filings show. “I’m on my way and I’m sure I won’t have time are (sic) privacy enough to speak about this so I want you to know how much I love Nancy New and John Davis,” Favre writes. “What they have done for me and Southern Miss is amazing. Her family’s first (sic) is incredible and she cares. We were planning to do workshops and youth clinics in the new Vball facility with her families first kids. And also I paid for 3/4 of Vball facility and the rest was a joint project with her and John which was saving me 1.8 million. I was informed today that she may not be able to fund her part. I and we need your help very badly governor and sorry to even bring this up.”

”Her ideas for instilling leadership, workshops for career development and youth sports programs and held (sic) within our vision of the best facilities possible at USM,” Favre continues.

”I will handle that…,” Bryant replies. “Long story but had to make a change. But I will call Nancy and see what it will take. 👍”

Favre shares the governor’s reply with Nancy New, MCEC filings show. This is the first exchange among the publicly available texts in which Favre appears to imply to Bryant that public funds may be involved. Bryant’s later September 2022 court filing will describe this exchange as the point at which “Governor Bryant first learned that MDHS was involved with funding the USM Volleyball Center Project.”

July 16, 2019
A text message from Brett Favre to Phil Bryant
July 16, 2019
‘All The Good Things We Are Working On’
Phil Bryant sends a text message to Nancy New to say that he “Just left Brett Favre,” Bryant’s and MCEC’s court filings show. “Can we help him with his project,” Bryant continues. “We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on course.” New says she “would really appreciate having the opportunity to follow through with all the good things we are working on,” specifically citing “projects like Brett’s.” They agree to meet at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 18.
July 16, 2019
July 16, 2019
‘He Wants Me To Continue To Help You’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to let him know about her meeting with Gov. Phil Bryant and says that the governor “wants me to continue to help you and us get our project done,” MCEC court filings show. Favre responds: “I love John so much. And you too.” The filings do not make it clear why he mentions “John.”
July 16, 2019
July 18, 2019
Phil Bryant Meets With Nancy New
Phil Bryant texts a staff attorney asking for a 4 p.m. meeting with him and Nancy New at the Governor’s Mansion. The staff attorney, whose name is redacted, says he will and that he was already “planning on coming.”

In later September 2022 court filings, Bryant’s attorney will describe the meeting this way: “Governor Bryant and one of his staff attorneys met with New on July 18, 2019. Bryant explained that he supported the USM Volleyball Center Project, but MDHS must comply with federal and state laws. Bryant further explained that the state auditor’s investigation of MDHS may provide clarity on the matter.”

July 18, 2019
July 18-19, 2019
‘Nancy Said Meeting Went Very Well’
Brett Favre texts Phil Bryant late in the evening, according to Bryant’s later court filings. “Nancy said meeting went very well. Thanks again very much,” Favre writes.

“Working with her. Lots of challenges but we will do our best,” Bryant replies.

July 18-19, 2019
July 19, 2019
Bryant Discusses Job Opening With Freeze
Gov. Phil Bryant sends a text message to retired FBI Special Agent Christopher Freeze, asking how retirement is going, Bryant’s 2022 filings show. Freeze responds that he has “been traveling to a few conferences speaking about childhood trauma and the connection to juvenile justice.”

Bryant tells him that he may gave him a call later. “Have a Agency Director position open at Dept. of Human Services that needs a compassionate leader,” the governor writes. Freeze says he is “happy to talk” about it.

July 19, 2019
A text message from Brett Favre to Phil Bryant
July 22, 2019
‘Don’t Want To Get Anyone In Trouble’
Brett Favre sends a text message to Gov. Phil Bryant telling him that “Deion Sanders and his son are coming for a recruiting visit,” according to Bryant’s later court filings. “He is a QB and could be best in country,” Favre writes. “I already (sic) with Nancy and started talking about a indoor facility but I think we have got to get one to stay up with everyone else. But it won’t happen anytime soon if you and Nancy can’t help. I would like to tell him we are about to start building in the next year and half.”

After a brief section that is redacted in the court filings, Bryant tells Favre that State Auditor Shad White “is reviewing all the Contracts at DHS which Funds Families First,” the filings show. “Hope we get clearance soon. Don’t want to get anyone in trouble for improper expenditures. Should know soon.”

Favre does not appear to respond to Bryant’s legal concerns. “As far as families first and facilities goes I think we can do so much together. It would be beneficial for both.” Bryant says he hopes “we get clearance.” Minutes later, Favre asks Bryant what his “gut” tells him will happen. “I have to come up with a lot of money if this doesn’t get clearance,” the retired quarterback tells the governor.

“It’s the State Auditor that will give the approval,” Bryant replies. “Has to have legal authority. I will check today.”

July 22, 2019
A text message from Brett Favre to Phil Bryant
screenshot of text message between Phil Bryant and staff attorney
July 22, 2019
‘See What The Contract With Southern Miss Is All About’
Gov. Phil Bryant sends a text message to a staff attorney, according to the governor’s later court filings. “Can we check with Nancy New and see what the contract with Southern Miss is all about. Brett is asking for info on the proposed funding.” The staff attorney, whose name is redacted, responds affirmatively.
July 22, 2019
screenshot of text message between Phil Bryant and staff attorney
July 22, 2019
Auditor Announces ‘Significant Findings’
Mississippi State Auditor Shad White announces that the 2018 Single Audit Report found that the Mississippi Department of Human Services “failed to meet legal requirements to spend public money and do not have adequate safeguards to prevent fraud.” The report says MDHS “did not monitor recipients of several grants to determine whether grant money was spent in accordance with the law”; “did not compile basic, required documents”; “did not follow all legal requirements for ensuring beneficiaries of large programs” including TANF “were actually eligible for the programs.” The report says that some of the findings “have been repeatedly identified by the Auditor’s office since 2014 with no corrective action completed.”
July 22, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Phil Bryant and a staff attorney
July 22, 2019
‘They Couldn’t Say They Were Done With Nancy Yet’
Gov. Phil Bryant’s staff attorney shares the results of the auditor’s report with him, the governor’s 2022 court filings show, and Bryant says MDHS “should explain why this was not corrected since 2014.” The staff attorney also explains that he or she has spoken with Nancy New.

“(New) said the program at usm is a health and fitness program,” the staff attorney tells Bryant. “The contract is with usm to rent buildings to put on this program. Brett volunteers his time. Nancy is getting a one pager.”

Bryant asks if the staff attorney could get the auditor to tell them “if the USM Contract is proper.” When the staff attorney says he or she will ask, Bryant says that if it is proper “then we should move ahead since they are planning it to happen.” He asks if New has “heard any further from the Auditor since Friday?”

“I don’t think so but the auditor’s office said they couldn’t say they were done with Nancy yet,” the attorney replies. “They think the John Davis, dibiasi (sic) investigation will take another month or so to wrap up. They haven’t found any additional info since what they reported (4) weeks ago.”

July 22, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Phil Bryant and a staff attorney
July 25, 2019
Bryant Announces John Davis’ Replacement
After texting retired FBI Special Agent Christopher Freeze to tell him that he is “honored” to have him “on our team,” Gov. Phil Bryant announces that he will serve as the interim director for the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
July 25, 2019
July 25, 2019
‘We Need To Get His Approval’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New asking her if she thinks he should send Gov. Phil Bryant a message, MCEC court filings show. New tells him it “wouldn’t hurt” and that she sent a proposal to his assistant. “I think he has been gone some this week but today he did announce John Davis’ replacement from somewhere, maybe he is back in Jackson. … but we need to get his approval sooner than later,” she writes.

Favre shares a text message with New that he says is from “Phil”: “just back in town. Met with new Director today. It will take time to get the Auditors Report. Working on it..”

July 25, 2019
July 25, 2019
‘It Will Take Some Time To Get The Auditors Report’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant, asking him to “take a look at Nancys (sic) proposal,” according to Bryant’s later court filings. “By the way I do follow you on Twitter ☺️👍,” Favre adds. Bryant, who just returned from a trip to New York, responds that he met with the new MDHS director earlier that day. “It will take time to get the Auditors Report. Working on it..,” he writes. Favre thanks him, and Bryant tells him to “Keep the faith.”
July 25, 2019
July 25, 2019
‘Not Sure What To Make Of That’
Favre shares Bryant’s response, MCEC filings show. New texts Favre to say that she is “not sure what to make of” Gov. Bryant’s message saying that “it will take time to get the Auditors Report,” MCEC filings show. She says that she thinks “the new Director will be good to work with” and notes that he “is a retired FBI Director.” Favre tells her that Bryant “said for us to keep the faith also☺️.”
July 25, 2019
screenshot of text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
July 28, 2019
Brett Favre Asks For Football Facility Funds
“Sorry to bother you but Friday I picked up Deion Sanders and his son who is going to be a junior in high school and plays QB,” Brett Fave says in a text to Gov. Phil Bryant, according to the governor’s later court filings. He says that Sanders’ son “has at least 30 offers thus far including us” but that there are “many hurdles to jump” through.

“As I suspected Deion’s son asked where the indoor facility was and I said we don’t have one but are hoping to break ground in less than two years,” Favre writes. “Now that will not happen without your help/commitment!!! I know we have the Vball to complete first and I’m asking a lot with that and I believe 100% that if you can get this done Nancy will reach and help many and in the recruiting war will give USM instant credibility and become relevant again.”

The governor again warns Favre that the funds Nancy New controls have legal limits. “Nancy has some limited control over Federal Funds in the form of Grants for Children and adults in the Low Income Community,” Bryant writes. “Use of these funds are tightly controlled. Any improper use could result in violation of Federal Law. Auditors are currently reviewing the use of these funds by Families First. As soon as the Audit is complete, we will know if the project at USM is a proper expenditure.” He explains that neither he nor New “can make this decision” and that use of the funds requires approval from DHS and the state auditor.

Without that approval any expenditure could be illegal and Nancy and USM could be made to repay the Federal Government any and all funds spent. That’s why we are waiting till it is approved.”

July 28, 2019
screenshot of text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
July 31, 2019
John Davis’ Last Day At MDHS
John Davis’ retirement takes effect after his last day as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
July 31, 2019
a photo of Chris Freeze
Aug. 1, 2019
Christopher Freeze Becomes MDHS Interim Director
Christopher Freeze begins his first day as interim director at the Mississippi Department of Human Services. He will soon begin the process of implementing new controls and procedures at MDHS, including requiring agreements to be made by written contract, not verbal contract as often happened under John Davis. He will also implement an RFP process that will require entities requesting funds to make formal proposals.
Aug. 1, 2019
a photo of Chris Freeze
Aug. 2, 2019
‘I Am Very Anxious To Get In There’
Brett Favre texts Nancy New to ask if she has met the new director yet, MCEC court filings show; she replies that she has not had a meeting with him yet, but has “asked for one ASAP.” “I am very anxious to get in there and talk with him,” she writes. “The Gov wants me too (sic), so I am counting on his push, too.” Afterward, Favre texts Bryant to thank him for “getting (New) and the new Director together ASAP,” Bryant’s later filings show.
Aug. 2, 2019
Aug. 5, 2019
‘Mine and Nancys Project’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Bryant again to ask if there is “word yet on Mine and Nancys project,” Bryant’s court filings show. The governor says he will check again.
Aug. 5, 2019
Aug. 5, 2019
Bryant Asks Staff Attorney About Proposal
Gov. Phil Bryant sends a text message to a staff attorney and asks if his office has received a plan from Nancy New regarding a project between USM and Families First, according to texts in court filings that redact the attorney’s name.

“yes sir, it should have been in your briefing book the other day,” the attorney replies. “I’ll make sure a copy is in there today.”

Aug. 5, 2019
Aug. 5, 2019
‘The Dewey Phillip Bryant Center For Excellence’
The proposal that Gov. Phil Bryant receives says it is from “Dr. Nancy New” and “Brett Favre.” The document reveals a proposed name for the building: “Re: The Dewey Phillip Bryant Center For Excellence at the University of Southern Mississippi (The proposed name was intended to be a surprise honor to the Governor. Due to the urgency in getting this secured, we felt it appropriate to share),” the subject line reads. A later Sept. 23, 2022, court filing by Bryant’s attorney will describe the proposed name as “a desperate ploy by New to curry favor” that “did not have the intended effect.”

New’s proposal says that MCEC, MDHS, the USM Athletic Foundation and Brett Favre “have engaged in a collaborative partnership aimed at providing evidence-based and research-based resources and initiatives to individuals, families and communities throughout Mississippi.” It says the initiative’s goals will include topics such as obesity, bullying, soft skills, financial literacy and leadership training. The proposal promises to “serve as a model program in the country and a catalyst for sustainable, systemic change.” It estimates that between $1.5 million and $2 million “is needed to adequately fund this project.”

Aug. 5, 2019
Aug. 8, 2019
‘We Are Going To Get This Done’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to say that Gov. Phil Bryant “texted and said y’all are meeting on the proposal I gave him” and that “We are going to get this done,” MCEC court filings show. Favre texts back after his meeting with Bryant and says they met for 15 minutes, mostly on another issue, but that “he did say at the end that he will get this done with you!!!” In a separate text 13 minutes later, Favre adds: “He sure came across as nice and believable.”
Aug. 8, 2019
Aug. 8, 2019
Bryant Asks About Bricks and Mortar
Gov. Phil Bryant texts Brett Favre, asking him if Nancy New’s funding proposal is for bricks and mortar, according to texts in Bryant’s Sept. 23, 2022, court filings. “Her application is not very clear what the money will be used for?” Favre says he will check. “No brick and mortar,” he writes later, relaying a message from Nancy New which says that the funds “can pay for Lease expenses” and “curriculum for several programs.”

“She said we can’t use for brick and mortar,” Favre writes. He shares a message from Nancy New about a need for “project managers” that says the proposal is “all about teaching, education, obesity prevention, exercise, etc.”

Aug. 8, 2019
Aug. 8, 2019
‘Teaching, Education, Obesity Prevention, Exercise’
Nancy New’s Aug. 8, 2019, text messages with Brett Favre in the MCEC filings do not include New’s response to the “brick and mortar” questions, which Bryant’s 2022 legal filing includes. (TANF funds cannot legally be used for brick and mortar projects). Instead, they jump from Favre’s remarks that Bryant “came across as sincere and believable” to New’s comments about “project managers.”
Aug. 8, 2019
Aug. 10, 2019
‘He Is A Politician So I’m A Little Uneasy’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to ask what Gov. Phil Bryant said to him about the proposal, MCEC court filings show. “I know the new director knows about it because I brought it up to him,” she writes. “He asked me if that was the one that the Gov’s name was to go on the bld??? I said yes but honestly I couldn’t read why he asked that about his name. Keep that quiet right now. Lots of politics I think.”

Favre responds and says that “Phil is adamant it will get done” but that “he is a politician so I’m a little uneasy.” New agrees, and says she hopes “he will stay steady and help us get it done.” Favre says he will “keep asking weekly.”

Aug. 10, 2019
Aug. 12, 2019
‘Can You Talk For A Quick Second?’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to ask if he can “talk for a quick second,” MCEC court filings show. Favre responds saying he will “call you now.”
Aug. 12, 2019
Aug. 14, 2019
‘Nancy Has to Provide The Proper Documentation’
“Now that the facility is almost done I expect to start payment. I know your (sic) on it and Thanks,” Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant in the morning, the governor’s later court filings show. Bryant responds that he is “in Ghana, Africa today” and that “Nancy has to provide the proper documentation to MDHS. It’s all up to her get the paperwork in and then I can help.” Favre shares the text with Nancy New, according to MCEC court filings.
Aug. 14, 2019
Aug. 14, 2019
‘Hint Hint’

Nancy New tells Brett Favre that she has “given the proper information to several people several times” but they should “definitely submit it again today,” MCEC court filings show. She promises to share “a couple of my real thoughts with (Favre) on some folks” when she has time. Brett Favre tells her that the governor has seen her proposal “but hint hint that you need to reword it to get it accepted.”

”Reword?? Wonder what he means,” New replies, saying that she will “call now to get a little more information from someone on the inside.” Bryant’s Sept. 23, 2022, court filing will call Favre’s “characterization of the governor’s message … far from accurate.”

Aug. 14, 2019
Aug. 14, 2019
‘I Would Do That If I Were Her’
Gov. Phil Bryant’s text messages show that Brett Favre told him “Nancy said she would re-send,” but that “she said the new director has seen and looked it over.”

“If you are saying she needs to reword and resubmit I’ll tell her,” Favre writes. Bryant tells Farvre that he “would do that if I were her.” Favre agrees to tell her, and tells Bryant that “any other advice is welcomed since (we) want to get this accomplished.”

After Bryant does not respond, Favre says New “said she would redo but sure would like some insight for guidance if possible.” Bryant replies with a “👍” emoji, and Favre persists: “Please let me know if I can tell Nancy anything that can help get this done.” Bryant’s reply in the texts is redacted with black bars.

Aug. 14, 2019
Aug. 16, 2019
‘Hopefully She Can Put More Details In The Proposal’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant saying that “Nancy has reached out to a few folks for some intel but they haven’t returned her calls” and that she is rewording the proposal to submit the next morning. Favre asks again for “any advice” he can share with Nancy New.

“That’s all I know to tell her,” Bryant replies. “Hopefully she can put more details in the proposal. Like how many times the facility will be used and how many child (sic) will be served and for what specific purpose,” the text message says. Favre shares the text with Nancy New, MCEC court filings show.

Aug. 16, 2019
Aug. 16, 2019
‘A Way To Get It Done Without Actually Saying It’
In response to the message from Gov. Phil Bryant, Nancy New texts Brett Favre saying “that’s what we did,” MCEC court filings show. She says she is “getting even more details added to the proposal and sent as an addendum now.” Later, she asks Favre a question: “Confidential; Do you get the impression that the governor will help us?”

”I really feel like he is trying to figure out a way to get it done without actually saying it.” Gov. Bryant’s later Sept. 23, 2022, court filing will dispute Favre’s characterization.

Aug. 16, 2019
Aug. 16, 2019
‘We Will See Soon’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant again to share New’s latest iteration of the proposal and the governor says it looks “much better,” Bryant’s later court filings show. Favre asks Bryant if he thinks it is “sufficient enough.”

“We will see soon,” Bryant responds. “I would have listed the number of people proposed to be reached by the program and the number of employees necessary to achieve these goals. Taking off from Ghana so this may be my last message for a while.”

Aug. 16, 2019
Aug. 16-17, 2019
‘Let’s Send It’
Brett Favre shares Bryant’s latest message with Nancy New, the MCEC court filings show. Favre says “he did like it but added above text.” New says she “can send that in as well!”

The next morning, Favre asks New if she would like for him “to send the latest copy” to Bryant; she says she is “going through it again in a little bit and then let’s send it.”

Aug. 16-17, 2019
Aug. 17, 2019
‘Looks Much Better’
Brett Favre sends the latest iteration of Nancy New’s proposal to Gov. Phil Bryant, the governor’s later court filings show. “Looks much better,” Bryant writes. “We will help from this end.”
Aug. 17, 2019
Aug. 17, 2019
‘The Brett Favre Center For Excellence’
The new version of the proposal still calls for between $1.5 million and $2 million in funding that “will be deposited in and maintained by the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation,” but now says they will be “designated specifically for the Brett Favre Center of Excellence at the University of Southern Mississippi.” It says the “commitment will help to ensure that this isn’t just a project or program, rather it is a sustainable process that provides a perpetual direct and meaningful impact on youth and families for many years to come.” It also proposes naming the building “The Dewey Phillip Bryant Center for Excellence in Healthy Living.”
Aug. 17, 2019
Aug. 19, 2019
Proposal Estimate Climbs
Brett Favre sends a text message to Gov. Phil Bryant asking if there is “anything else I should tell Nancy.” Bryant replies, “Just submit it and we will work it from here.” This latest version of the proposal increases the cost estimate, saying it “will require financial support from the Mississippi Department of Human Services between 1.8 million and 2 million dollars.” This time, it says the funds will be “designated specifically for the Dewey Phillip Bryant Center of Excellence,” not the “Brett Favre Center of Excellence.”
Aug. 19, 2019
screenshot of texts between Chris Freeze and Phil Bryant
Aug. 21, 2019
‘Brett Needs More To Do In His Life Just Now’
“Brett Favre is blowing me up over that proposal Nancy New submitted for the Center at Southern Miss,” Gov. Phil Bryant texts MDHS Interim Director Chris Freeze, according to Bryant’s court filings. “I have told him it would be reviewed just like all other proposed projects. Brett needs more to do in his life just now. I really do think he believes in the project.”

“Yes, Nancy is blowing me up, too,” Freeze responds. “Unless there is additional information you would like MDHS to consider, I’m not inclined to approve at this time. I don’t think now is the time to give them $2 million.” Freeze tells Bryant he believes there are “other ways to accomplish their goals than by creating a center at USM.” He offers to talk with Bryant if he would like.

“As always I am not going to interfere. You got a better understanding than I do of these projects. I think Brett was told it was going to get done by the previous Director,” Bryant replies, referring to John Davis. “One of the reasons that he is a former director.” Bryant’s next message is redacted.

Aug. 21, 2019
screenshot of texts between Chris Freeze and Phil Bryant
Aug. 23, 2019
‘Nancy And I Will Come And Meet With You’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant to tell him that he and Nancy New “will come meet with you and new director if you think that will help.” Bryant says it “can’t hurt” and that they will schedule a meeting. Favre tells Bryant “I or we need you help us (sic) big time on this.”
Aug. 23, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
Aug. 24, 2019
‘I Got Called Into This Game Late’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant another urgent message, the governor’s filings show. “Governor the indoor volleyball facility could be completed any day now and I’m sure the university will be calling for the remaining 1,048,000. I can try to buy some time. Your (sic) our starting QB and we can only go as far as you take us.”

“I got called into this game late,” the governor responds, saying he’s headed to Taiwan and that they need to schedule the meeting with Chris Freeze when they return. “Not sure who made the deal for a million,” Bryant writes. Favre tells him that “if anyone can make this work you can” and wishes him a “great trip.”

Aug. 24, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
Aug. 26, 2019
‘Governor Said We Should Meet With Him And New Director’
Nancy New texts Brett Favre to say a meeting is confirmed at the governor’s office for Sept. 4, 2019, at 2 p.m., MCEC court filings show.
Aug. 26, 2019
Sept. 4, 2019
Meeting Between New, Favre, Bryant and Freeze
Nancy New, Brett Favre, Gov. Phil Bryant and MDHS Interim Director Christopher Freeze meet at the governor’s office where New discusses her funding proposals.
Sept. 4, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Phil Bryant and Brett Favre
Sept. 4, 2019
‘I Am To Old For Federal Prison’
Brett Favre sends a text message to Gov. Phil Bryant after the meeting, Bryant’s court filings show. He thanks him and notes that “time is working against us.” Favre says that he and Nancy New believe Bryant’s name “is the perfect choice for this facility and we are not taking No for an answer.” He reminds Bryant that he is “a Southern Miss Alumni, and folks need to know you are also a supporter of the University.

“We are going to get there,” Bryant replies. “But we have to follow the law. I am to (sic) old for Federal Prison.😎”

Favre continues to press the governor on whether he thinks the funding will get approved, but Bryant says it is “about Nancy and her play book” and that “it’s not going to happen till November.” Favre says he hopes it will happen “before someone goes out of office.” Bryant replies with a thumbs-up emoji.

Sept. 4, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Phil Bryant and Brett Favre
Sept. 6, 2019
Freeze Approves Some Funds For MCEC, Denies Others
In a letter to the Mississippi Community Education Center and its director, Nancy New, MDHS Interim Director Christopher Freeze approves over $1 million in additional state funds. The letter notes that she stated “MCEC incurred these costs at the direction of former Executive Director John Davis.”

Freeze tells New that he is denying her request for $804,213.10 in other funds because they would violate federal rules. “MDHS does not have and has never had the authority to circumvent federal regulations or instruction with federal funds nor do we have the authority to instruct subgrantees to do so,” he writes.

Sept. 6, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Phil Bryant and Brett Favre
Sept. 6, 2019
‘A Potentially Criminal Offense’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant, saying that “the completion of the facility is any day now and then I am to pay the remainder of the amount,” according to Bryant’s court filings. “If you think I should move forward on my own and pay it then that’s fine but if I should politely ask for a few more months then I’m sure Charlie Finnegan would allow that,” the retired quarterback writes. “The university has know (sic) money nor would I expect them to help.”

Bryant tells Favre that he “would ask for an extension” and alludes to a “Bid process the Director talked about,” saying it is “state law” and that “to override or not obey the law would be a potentially criminal offense.”

“Neither of us want an investigation by the Auditor. I promise you, there is nothing more I can do except follow the law,” Bryant writes. Favre says he will “ask for an extension.”

Sept. 6, 2019
screenshot of a text message between Phil Bryant and Brett Favre
screenshot of a text between Phil Bryant and a staff attorney
Sept. 6, 2019
‘She Should Be Worried’
In texts with an unnamed staff attorney revealed in his later court filings, Gov. Phil Bryant says that “Until Audit has completed its work I am staying out of all decisions” the Department of Human Services will make. He tells the attorney that Nancy New “wants to meet again” but that he does not “think that’s a good idea” and asks the attorney to “Keep this response as a record.”

“Yes sir. She’s relentless,” the staff attorney replies. The next two responses from Bryant are redacted in the texts. The third text is visible. “Nancy is worrying,” Bryant texts. “She know (sic) what they were doing was wrong.”

“100%. She should be worried,” the staff attorney replies. Bryant responds with a “👍.” After more redacted messages, the governor copies the staff attorney on a response he received from Nancy New after apparently telling her that he could not meet with her.

“It isn’t about the audit or DHS at all,” reads the copied text that Bryant says is from New. “Actually, it’s about me but that’s ok. I understand.”

Sept. 6, 2019
screenshot of a text between Phil Bryant and a staff attorney
Jim Hood watches a Tate Reeves ad on TV
Oct. 17, 2019
Tate Reeves Films Ad at Nancy New’s Private School
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Republican nominee for governor, receives criticism after he films a campaign ad touting his support for public education at Nancy New’s private school, New Summit—the top recipient in millions of public-education funds that Reeves helped shift to private schools with a special-needs voucher program. His Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jim Hood, accuses him of swapping funding for campaign donations.

During the 2019 campaign, Reeves accepted a $5,000 donation from New, while Hood accepted a $2,000 donation.

Oct. 17, 2019
Jim Hood watches a Tate Reeves ad on TV
Oct. 22, 2019
‘I Also Know How To Make That Play’
Gov. Phil Bryant belatedly responds to a text message Brett Favre sent on Oct. 13, 2019, asking if he had gotten “any good vibes yet for our funding” for the volleyball project, according to the governor’s later court filings. Bryant tells him that he is meeting with Director Chris Freeze later in the week “to see where we are in the grant request.” He says that they “may have to go to the Legislature in January and get language in a funding bill.”

“I also know how to make that play🏈. Keep the faith,” the governor adds. Favre says it “would help me out tremendously if you can get it done. Sure will make it easier on me.”

Oct. 22, 2019
Nov. 5, 2019
‘I Have Been Pushing Tate So Hard’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant on Election Day, Bryant’s court filings show. He discusses his preference for Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to win the governor’s race over Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. “If our guy wins I’ll feel better about things but if the other guy wins I feel like Nancy and I can forget our vision for Southern Miss,” Favre writes.

“That’s one reason I have been pushing Tate so hard. He has to win. Then we set up a meeting on Wellness Center at USM,” Bryant replies. He urges Favre to send Reeves a “good luck” text.

Brett Favre is pictured here in 2019 with then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and then-Gov. Phil Bryant. (Photo Tate Reeves/Twitter)

Nov. 5, 2019
Nov. 5, 2019
Tate Reeves Wins Governor’s Race
Republican Tate Reeves narrowly defeats Democrat Jim Hood in the election for governor.
Nov. 5, 2019
screenshot of texts between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
Nov. 11, 2019
‘John Davis Is Gone Because of This Type of Issue’
“Think you will get the wellness center project done?” Brett Favre asks Gov. Phil Bryant, according to Bryant’s court filings. The governor says it “will depend on the Grants in January” and if they can get help from the Mississippi Legislature. “Nancy should have been more careful in giving any assurance that the project would be approved. One of the reasons John Davis is gone is because of this type of issue. We will keep working on it…”
Nov. 11, 2019
screenshot of texts between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
Nov. 11, 2019
‘He Was Assured By Nancy It Would Be Funded’
Gov. Bryant sends a text message to MDHS Interim Director Chris Freeze. “Brett Favre keeps asking about the project. I told him a number of times it would be January before we would know anything,” the governor writes. “Apparently he was assured by Nancy it would be funded.”

In response, Freeze says the “proposals are due November 15” and that the “committee will begin their work the following Monday” with results and notifications by Dec. 13. Freeze asks Bryant how strongly he feels about the volleyball project, and Bryant says he is “a supporter” and thinks that “it can be a big help to a lot of people.” Bryant relays Freeze’s information to Favre.

Nov. 11, 2019
Dec. 12, 2019
‘I Think Your Meeting With Nancy Tomorrow’
Brett Favre texts Gov. Phil Bryant, the governor’s later court filings show. “Hey Gov I think your (sic) meeting with Nancy tomorrow,” he says. “This money will be used for state programs as well as help USM but w/ a director in place good things will happen and The University is all in as well. I know your (sic) doing all you can and we appreciate you very much.”

Bryant thanks him, and tells him they “are working on it for sure” and that he will know more when he meets with Nancy New.

Dec. 12, 2019
Dec. 13, 2019
MSDH Intends to Award MCEC More TANF Funds
MSDH issues a notice of award, showing that it plans to deliver more TANF subgrants to multiple entities, including Nancy New’s Mississippi Community Education Center.
Dec. 13, 2019
Dec. 18, 2019
‘Someone Was Definitely Pulling For Us’
Gov. Phil Bryant sends Nancy New a text message, MCEC court filings show. “Did y’all get any Of the new programs from DHS.?” he asks. New responds: “Yes, we did. From all the craziness going on, we had been made to believe we were not getting refunded. But we did. ‘Someone’ was definitely pulling for us behind the scenes. Thank you.” Bryant responds with a single emoji: “☺️.”

Christopher Freeze will later respond to these messages in an interview with the Mississippi Free Press in September 2022, saying that “the governor can send smiley faces back, but within two weeks he said don’t fund her and don’t fund Christi Webb at the Family Resource Center.”

Dec. 18, 2019
a photo of the USM volleyball stadium seen from around an oak tree
Late December 2019
Volleyball Stadium Completed
The University of Southern Mississippi completes the volleyball stadium, known as the Wellness Center. The 28,000-square-foot facility sits on what used to be 200 parking spots on campus, not far from the outdoor beach volleyball courts. (Photo by Ashton Pittman)
Late December 2019
a photo of the USM volleyball stadium seen from around an oak tree
Dec. 31, 2019
Favre Charity Gives $46,817 to USM Athletic Foundation
At year’s end, Brett Favre’s nonprofit for disadvantaged children, Favre4Hope, has given $46,817 to the USM Athletic Foundation. It’s the second year that Favre4Hope gave more than the $10,000 to $12,500 it gave the foundation between 2014 and 2017.
Dec. 31, 2019
a text message between nancy new and phil bryant
Jan. 9, 2020
‘I Can’t Borrow Any More Money To Hold On’
Nancy New texts Gov. Phil Bryant, according to the governor’s filings. “We were recently told that our new contracts, effective Jan. 1 from DHS had been pulled back and no money would be dispersed,” she writes. “I don’t have to know the reasoning behind that necessarily, but more importantly, my coworkers are trying to keep the family services going and in fact, they don’t know that they are very close to losing their own jobs. Unfortunately, we are going to have to stop all of our services funded by DHS as we have exhausted all monies just trying to hold on.”

New tells Bryant that she will have to lay off around 60 to 73 people and that they will need to start closing their Family First Centers across the state. “DHS already owes my organization a huge amount of reimbursements from the previous contract,” she writes. “I can’t borrow any more money to hold on. She asks Bryant to “check on the status of those contracts under my name (MCEC).”

“Let me see what I can find out..” Bryant replies. “[B]ut he already knew the answer,” the governor’s late Sept. 23, 2022, court filing will say. “Bryant had instructed Freeze to cease further funding of MCEC.”

Jan. 9, 2020
a text message between nancy new and phil bryant
Jan. 13, 2020
Prosecutors Quietly File Indictments Against News
Hinds County prosecutors file multiple indictments against Nancy New and her son Zach New, including counts of conspiracy, embezzlement, bribery, fraud, racketeering, forgery and more. The indictments are not yet public.
Jan. 13, 2020
Jan. 14, 2020
Tate Reeves Becomes Governor
Republican Tate Reeves takes the oath of office as Mississippi’s new governor following a November 2019 victory as Phil Bryant concludes eight years in the position.
Jan. 14, 2020
Jan. 14, 2020
Freeze Resigns, Black Becomes Interim Director
After learning that Gov. Tate Reeves has asked him to step down, Christopher Freeze resigns as MDHS interim director, and Jacob Black assumes the role temporarily.
Jan. 14, 2020
Jan. 23, 2020
‘We’ll Be Opening An $8 Million Facility’
An Associated Press article quotes Brett Favre as he previews the University of Southern Mississippi’s new volleyball stadium. “We built one at Oak Grove High School. And for Southern Miss, that was difficult—it’s hard to get people to donate for volleyball,” he says. “But we’ll be opening an $8 million facility that will be as good as any in the country at Southern Mississippi.”
Jan. 23, 2020
screenshot of texts between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
Jan. 27, 2020
‘Had A Talk With Tate’
Brett Favre texts former-Gov. Phil Bryant, according to Bryant’s September 2022 court filings. “Governor, had a talk with Tate and he said he would get with his team on a plan,” Favre writes. “I’m sure with you in his ear that would help tremendously.” Bryant replies, “Good deal.. Will make that happen 👍.” Favre thanks him, then sends the same text two times in a row: “I can (sic) focus on anything else with this looming.” After the second text, Bryant replies, “I understand..”
Jan. 27, 2020
screenshot of texts between Brett Favre and Phil Bryant
Jan. 27, 2020
‘He Wants The State To Pay Off His Promises’
Former Gov. Phil Bryant sends a text message to University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett, telling him that “Brett keeps asking to help him fund the Volleyball Facility.” He tells Bennett that he wants to help “but wanted to see your position before I go (to) the LtGovernor.”

Bennett greets the governor, then shares his thoughts on Favre’s actions. “I’ve asked Brett to not do the things he’s doing to seek funding from state agencies and the legislature for the volleyball facility,” he writes. “As you know, IHL has a process of how we request and get approval for projects and what he’s doing is outside those guidelines. I will see, for the ‘umpteenth time’ if we can get him to stand down. The bottom line is he personally guaranteed the project, and on his word and handshake we proceeded. It’s time for him to pay up-it really is just that simple.”

“That’s (sic) was my thoughts,” Bryant responds. “Maybe he wants the State to pay off his promises. Like all of us I like Brett. He is a legend but he has to understand what a pledge means. I have tried many times to explain that to him.”

Jan. 27, 2020
Feb. 4, 2020
Prosecutors File More Indictments
Prosecutors file new indictments, including against John Davis and Brett DiBiase, alleging that they “and others” “conspired” to “defraud MDHS.” Charges against Davis include conspiracy, embezzlement and fraudulent statements.
Feb. 4, 2020
Feb. 5, 2020
Investigation Goes Public; Six Arrested In ‘Sprawling Conspiracy’
Auditor Shad White and Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens announce the arrest of six individuals in connection with an alleged “multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme,” including John Davis, former MDHS employee Latimer Smith, Nancy New, Zach New, Brett DiBiase and MCEC accountant Anne McGrew.

News outlets across the state and country report on what officials call the largest welfare-fraud case in Mississippi history. While prosecutors describe multiple schemes related to TANF funds and Nancy New’s nonprofits, they do not mention Brett Favre or the volleyball stadium.

Feb. 5, 2020
Feb. 6-7, 2020
Brett Favre Persists
Brett Favre texts former Gov. Phil Bryant to ask him if he has “spoken to Tate,” according to Bryant’s later 2022 court filings. Favre says that Gov. Tate Reeves “said he was gonna get with his team and figure something out.” Bryant replies with a link to an mspolicy.org article on the indictments titled, “Largest public embezzlement scheme in Mississippi history uncovered.”

“This has been the problem,” Bryant writes. “Not sure what funding will be available in the future.”

“Yeah I’m well aware of it,” Favre replies. “I think the angle Tate is looking at is a bond bill according to [name redacted]. You think that has a chance?” Bryant tells him that bonds “can sure be used for Brick and mortar.” When Favre asks if there is anything he can do, Bryant says he may “want to meet with Tate when you can.”

“I did and he said he would get with his team,” Favre says. Bryant tells him he will “just have to wait till a bond bill is drafted and hope you make the list👍.”

Feb. 6-7, 2020
Feb. 7, 2020
Daily Journal Reports On Frozen Funds
The Daily Journal’s Caleb Bedillion reports that MDHS froze TANF funds to the Family Resource Center, the Tueplo-based nonprofit directed by Christi Webb that shared the Families First umbrella with MCEC. Webb's organization's staff included Debbie Hood, the wife of 2019 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
Feb. 7, 2020
Feb. 27, 2020
First Reporting on Favre, Volleyball Stadium
Mississippi Today reporter Anna Wolfe reports on a lease agreement, saying only that it was “obtained by Mississippi Today,” showing that MCEC used $5 million in Temporary Assistance For Needy Families Funds to build a volleyball stadium at USM. The report notes that Brett Favre “was credited in local news reports with raising funds to build the $7 million center.”

The story also cites a linked statement by University of Southern Mississippi spokesman James Coll on how the volleyball-court lease was approved: “Coll said in a statement that University and outside counsel, the attorney general’s office and the Institutes of (sic) Higher Learning board all approved the Wellness Center agreement. He added it is unlikely Mississippi Community Education Center will remain a partner.”

Feb. 27, 2020
a photo of Bob Anderson
March 3, 2020
Gov. Reeves Appoints Bob Anderson to MDHS
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves appoints Bob Anderson as the new director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. “Bob has put powerful people who abused their positions in jail,” Reeves says. “There is no one more capable to root out any remnants of the misdeeds of the past and ensure that corruption never infects this Department again.”
March 3, 2020
a photo of Bob Anderson
March 4, 2020
Student Newspaper Condemns Volleyball Project
“Although the (Wellness Center) is supposed to be multipurpose, it’s infamously known for being a new and improved volleyball facility that’s getting in the way of 200 parking spots,” the University of Southern Mississippi’s Student Printz Editorial Board writes in a scathing criticism of the volleyball stadium following Anna Wolfe’s Feb. 27 report. “Finally, our anger toward its construction is justified. We know that the construction of a volleyball court can’t help those below the poverty line.”
March 4, 2020
April 30, 2020
Auditor Reveals $1.1 Million Payments to Favre
Mississippi State Auditor Shad White releases his office’s 2019 Single Audit Report of the State of Mississippi, citing tens of millions in misspending, including revealing publicly for the first time that MCEC paid Favre a total of $1.1 million in TANF funds between 2017 and 2018. The audit said MCEC contracted Favre “to appear at several events, record promotions, and provide autographs for marketing materials.”

“Due to the inability to verify that any work was performed in order to fulfill the contract, and due to the unreasonable amount paid, the entire payment of $1,100,000 paid in FY 2018 is questioned,” White’s audit says.

April 30, 2020
May 6, 2020
Favre Responds to Revelations
In a series of tweets, Favre responds to revelations about the $1.1 million he received in TANF money. “My agent is often approached by different products and brands for me to appear in one way or another,” he writes. “This request was no different, and I did numerous ads for Families First.”

He tweets that he has “never received monies for obligations I didn’t meet” and that he “was unaware that the money being dispersed was paid for out of funds not intended for that purpose,” vowing to “refund the full amount back to Mississippi.”

May 6, 2020
May 6, 2020
Favre Returns $500,000
State Auditor Shad White says Favre has paid back $500,000 out of the $1.1 million he received in TANF funds and will “repay the remainder in installments over the next few months,” according to a Clarion-Ledger report. Favre will not make the payments in the following months, however.
May 6, 2020
May 7, 2020
Auditor Responds to IHL Commissioner
After Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education Alfred Rankins Jr. objects to the 2019 Single Audit Report in a letter to White, claiming it included “factual inaccuracies,” the state auditor responded with a scathing letter on May 7, 2020.

“The thrust of your objection seems to be that IHL ‘did not approve’ (emphasis is yours) a sublease agreement between the USM Athletic Foundation and the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC),” White wrote, pointing to the October 2017 IHL board minutes that included information on the approval of the volleyball contract.

“IHL cannot claim ignorance of this fact. That assertion flies in the face of your own minutes,” he wrote. “If IHL objected to the arrangement with MCEC, then the time to voice that objection was when the matter came up for a vote, not after the State Auditor pointed it out. … Instead of quibbling, perhaps your time could be better spent providing the public with a plan for the Wellness Center to be used by the at-risk community in Hattiesburg and providing that to me in a letter. This way, the TANF money that was paid for the Center might be used to benefit the community it was intended to benefit.”

May 7, 2020
May 8, 2020
IHL Notes Special Assistant Attorney General’s Role
Mississippi Today quotes IHL Commissioner Alfred Rankins Jr.’s letter pointing out that Attorney General Jim Hood’s staff approved the volleyball-board court lease. “This lease agreement was reviewed by a Special Assistant to the Attorney General and recommended by the Attorney General’s Office for approval by the Board of Trustees,” Rankins wrote. Neither the letter nor the story identify the special assistant to the attorney general who issued the recommendation as Stephanie Ganucheau because documents identifying her are not yet public.
May 8, 2020
a mugshot of Brett DiBiase
Dec. 17, 2020
Brett DiBiase Enters Guilty Plea
In exchange for cooperating with prosecutors, Brett DiBiase enters a guilty plea, accepting a charge of making false statements in order to defraud the government. Prosecutors drop conspiracy charges.
Dec. 17, 2020
a mugshot of Brett DiBiase
Dec. 31, 2020
Favre Charity Gives $26,175 to USM Athletic Foundation
At year’s end, Brett Favre’s nonprofit for disadvantaged children, Favre4Hope, has given $26,175 to the USM Athletic Foundation, later nonprofit filings show. It represents the third year in a row that Favre4Hope has given more than the $10,000 to $12,500 it gave the foundation yearly between 2014 and 2017.
Dec. 31, 2020
March 16, 2021
Federal Prosecutors Indict Nancy New, Zach New
Federal prosecutors indict Nancy New and Zach New, alleging that they “conspired” to “fraudulently” obtain more than $2 million in public-education funds and used it to pay for teachers’ salaries at their Jackson private school, New Summit School.
March 16, 2021
Sept. 29, 2021
Forensic Audit Released
MDHS releases findings about abuse and misspending in its TANF Forensic Audit: Findings of Possible Fraud, Waste & Abuse. It describes plans for new controls to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.
Sept. 29, 2021
Oct. 11, 2021
Anne McGrew Pleads Guilty
Former Mississippi Community Education Center accountant Anne McGrew pleads guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit embezzlement and agrees to testify against others in the case, including Nancy New and Zach New.
Oct. 11, 2021
Oct. 12, 2021
Auditor Demands Favre Pay $828,000
After Brett Favre fails to follow through on his vow to repay the remaining $600,000 in TANF welfare funds he received, State Auditor Shad White issues a demand letter for him to return the amount plus interest for a total of $828,000. He issues other demands for others to return “illegally spent welfare funds,” too, including Ted DiBiase Sr., Teddy DiBiase Jr., Brett DiBiase, Nancy New and Zach New.
Oct. 12, 2021
Oct. 28, 2021
Favre Returns $600,000
Brett Favre returns the remaining $600,000 from the original $1.1 million he received in TANF funds, but does not pay back the $228,000 in interest that State Auditor Shad White demanded.
Oct. 28, 2021
a photo of Brett Favre's face up close
Oct. 29, 2021
‘I Would Never Accept Money For No-Show Appearances’
In a series of tweets, Brett Favre disputes Auditor Shad White’s account, saying he “would never accept money for no-show appearances as the state of Mississippi auditor, @ShadWhite, claims.” He writes that he is “doing all that I can to support this investigation to make things right for the people of Mississippi and I have shared all that I know, which is that I was paid for three years of commercials that I did, and I paid taxes on the money, as I should.”

”Of course the money was returned because I would never knowingly take funds meant to help our neighbors in need, but for Shad White to continue to push out this lie that the money was for no-show events is something I cannot stay silent about,” Favre writes. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Oct. 29, 2021
a photo of Brett Favre's face up close
Oct. 29, 2021
‘These Are Lies, Brett Favre’
Auditor Shad White responds to Brett Favre’s latest tweets, calling them “lies” and saying he is “not going to hide how much you were paid, why you were paid, or conduct back room meetings to make them go away.”
Oct. 29, 2021
Nov. 18, 2021
Auditor Refers Favre, Others to Attorney General
State Auditor Shad White refers Brett Favre and nine others who he says have not paid back what they owe to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office, tasking her with enforcing the demands in civil court.
Nov. 18, 2021
April 4, 2022
‘That Volleyball Thing Kept Coming Up’
Mississippi Today publishes an interview with former Gov. Phil Bryant in which he discusses various aspects of the welfare scandal, including Brett Favre and the volleyball project. “That volleyball thing kept coming up, and popping up, and then it’d go away,” Bryant tells Mississippi Today reporter Anna Wolfe. “... If you look at some of Brett’s texts, they were — and literally, I’d probably be standing behind stage ready to go make a speech trying to read through these things. So I would go like, ‘Ah, great. Good deal. See you later.’ I mean, you just look at my salutations. They were like, I acknowledge, I got it. Try to be positive and moved on.”
April 4, 2022
April 22, 2022
Nancy New and Son Plead Guilty
As part of a plea deal, Nancy New and Zach New plead guilty to a series of federal charges, including wire fraud and money laundering in the welfare fraud case.
April 22, 2022
April 22, 2022
Construction Project ‘Disguised’
In his plea agreement, Zach New explains that he “acted with” his mother “and others, at their direction, to disguise the USM construction project as a ‘lease’ as a means of circumventing the limited purpose grant’s strict prohibition against ‘brick and mortar’ construction projects in violation of Miss. Code Ann. 97-7-10.”
April 22, 2022
May 9, 2022
MSDH Files Civil Suit Against 38, Including Favre
The Mississippi Department of Human Services announces that the State has filed a massive civil lawsuit against 38 people or entities involved in the sprawling welfare fraud scandal in an effort to recoup the misspent funds. Those targeted included Brett Favre, John Davis, Nancy New, Zach New, the DiBiases and MCEC.

The State has already hired attorney Brad Pigott, who once served as a U.S. attorney under President Bill Clinton, to lead the case. The complaint does not mention the $5 million in TANF funds that Davis, New and MCEC steered toward the USM volleyball projects Favre wanted.

May 9, 2022
July 11, 2022
Pigott Issues Subpoenas Regarding Volleyball Projects
The private attorney the State had hired to lead the case, Brad Pigott, issues a subpoena to The University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation asking for copies of its communications with Bryant, his wife and Nancy New’s friend Deborah Bryant, Favre, the News, Davis and Ted DiBiase Jr.
July 11, 2022
July 22, 2022
MDHS Fires Pigott
After he issues a subpoena for information on the USM volleyball projects, MDHS fires Brad Pigott and announces plans to hire a “full-service law firm.” Pigott tells Mississippi Today reporter Anna Wolfe that he believes the firing is politically motivated because he was “trying to get to the truth” about the volleyball funds and that Gov. Tate Reeves had a hand in it. MDHS Director Bob Anderson says that Pigott “made decisions about the litigation and filed pleadings without any prior discussion of the matter with MDHS.”
July 22, 2022
July 25, 2022
Nancy New Attorneys Subpoena Bryant
Nancy New’s attorney, Gary Bufkin, issues a subpoena to former Gov. Phil Bryant for documents related to the volleyball stadium, saying they had “no confidence” that the state would “pursue the evidence wherever it leads” and vowed to “find the truth, even if we have to drag it kicking and screaming into the light.”
July 25, 2022
Gov. Tate Reeves dressed in blue and tan speaks to a circle of reporters outside
July 28, 2022
Reeves: Pigott Was ‘Too Focused On The Political Side’
Gov. Tate Reeves tells reporters at the Neshoba County Fair that he was involved in the decision to fire Brad Pigott because the attorney was “too focused on the political side.”
July 28, 2022
Gov. Tate Reeves dressed in blue and tan speaks to a circle of reporters outside
Aug. 13, 2022
Mississippi Plans To Hire Jones Walker Law Firm
The Daily Journal’s Taylor Vance reports that the State plans to hire New Orleans law firm Jones Walker to replace Brad Pigott in the civil lawsuit. The State will make the hire official five days later on Aug. 18, 2022.
Aug. 13, 2022
Aug. 21, 2022
Breleigh Favre Leaves USM For LSU
Brett Favre’s daughter, Breleigh Favre, transfers to Louisiana State University where she joins the Tigers volleyball team, Yahoo! Sports reports.
Aug. 21, 2022
A blonde woman in black centers the frame, a black uniformed officer in the foreground to the left
Sept. 12, 2022
‘Governor Bryant Knew’
In a Hinds County court filing revealing dozens of text messages between Nancy New (pictured), Brett Favre and Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Community Education Center explains that it is seeking to compel former Gov. Bryant to turn over documents related to the volleyball stadium funding because it is relevant to their defense in the civil suit. The filing expresses particular concern with the claim that MCEC used TANF funds to pay Brett Favre $1.1 million simply for the purpose of “enriching” him.

“The evidence detailed herein suggests, quite strongly, that Governor Bryant knew MDHS funds were being sought by Favre to construct the Volleyball Facility; approved of the use of MDHS funds to construct the Volleyball Facility, and participated in securing MDHS funds for construction of the Volleyball Facility,” the Sept. 22, 2022, court filing says.

“This evidence of involvement by MDHS executives, including Governor Bryant, directly impacts MCEC’s Defenses and Counterclaims to MCEC’s claims, including its Claim to recover $1,100,000 paid to Favre Enterprises, Inc. for construction of the Volleyball Facility.”

Bryant denies all accusations of wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Sept. 12, 2022
A blonde woman in black centers the frame, a black uniformed officer in the foreground to the left
a photo of Phil Bryant and Teddy DiBiase Jr.
Sept. 17, 2022
Mississippi Today Reports Allegations Against Bryant
A defendant in the MDHS civil welfare fraud case, Family Resource of North Mississippi Director Christi Webb, alleges in an interview with Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe that former Gov. Phil Bryant threatened to cut off her nonprofit’s funding in 2019 because she was employing Debbie Hood, the wife of 2019 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Hood.

The story says Bryant’s attorney declined to comment, but does quote a staff member of Gov. Tate Reeves who accuses Mississippi Today of ignoring or not naming former Attorney General Jim Hood’s potential role in the welfare scandal. The report notes that the publication has repeatedly noted that the attorney general's office recommended the volleyball contract for approval.

Wolfe will follow up this report with another on Sept. 26, revealing an unsealed court filing in which Teddy DiBiase, Jr., (pictured with Gov. Bryant in 2015) a defendant in the civil case, previously made those allegations.

Sept. 17, 2022
a photo of Phil Bryant and Teddy DiBiase Jr.
Sept. 21, 2022
John Davis Pleads Guilty to Federal, State Crimes
John Davis pleads guilty to federal and state crimes in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors in cases against other potential defendants. A federal indictment, which Taylor Vance first reports at The Daily Journal, says that two unnamed nonprofit organizations are involved in the indictment as well as two unnamed companies.
Sept. 21, 2022
Sept. 23, 2022
Bryant Reveals Text Messages
In a Hinds County court filing in the MDHS civil case in response to MCEC’s efforts to compel him to respond to a subpoena, former Gov. Phil Bryant argues that some of the information is privileged. Still, he reveals dozens of text messages between himself and others, including Brett Favre, Christopher Freeze, Nancy New and several of his staff attorneys. The filing cites Freeze’s claim to the Mississippi Free Press that Bryant ordered him to stop payments to MCEC.
Sept. 23, 2022
Sept. 27-28, 2022
Mississippi Today Issues Editor’s Note on Familial Relation
The Y’all Politics reported on Sept. 27 that Stephanie Ganucheau, the special assistant to the attorney general who reccomended the volleyball contract for approval, is the mother of Mississippi Today editor Adam Ganucheau. After the Mississippi Free Press asks him for comment, Ganucheau sends a statement explaining that he only learned about his mother’s involvement on Sept. 20, 2022, and that the team subsequently implemented a policy allowing coverage “that may present a conflict to go forward without (his) direction.” He writes that the publication will add a disclosure to related stories, including those involving Jim Hood, since he learned of his mother’s involvement a week before.
Sept. 27-28, 2022
Sept. 28, 2022
Reports Says Favre Charity Gave $60,000 to Facility
The Daily Beast reports that, in 2015, Brett Favre’s charity for disadvantaged children, Favre4Hope, gave $60,000 to the Oak Grove Booster Club to help build a volleyball facility at the high school where his daughter played volleyball.
Sept. 28, 2022
Sept. 30, 2022
MCEC Court Filing Reveals USM’s Concerns
In response to former Gov. Phil Bryant’s Sept. 23, 2022, court filing, MCEC continues to argue that the court should compel him to comply with its subpoena. The new filing includes additional texts between Nancy New, Brett Favre and John Davis that suggest USM officials had concerns about accepting MDHS funds.
Sept. 30, 2022
a photo of Brett Favre and Donald Trump standing side-by-side next to a golf hole in front of a pond, both holding golf clubs. Trump is wearing a red "USA" hat and holding a thumb up
Oct. 3, 2022
Favre Hires Ex-Trump Attorney
Axios breaks the news that Brett Favre has hired attorney Eric D. Herschmann, who represented former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial and served as a White House senior adviser from August 2020 to January 2021. Herschmann says he “only agreed to represent Brett Favre after I did my independent due diligence and was convinced that he did nothing wrong.” Favre, who endorsed Trump in 2020, is pictured here with the ex-president during a golf outing that same year. (Trump White House Archive)
Oct. 3, 2022
a photo of Brett Favre and Donald Trump standing side-by-side next to a golf hole in front of a pond, both holding golf clubs. Trump is wearing a red "USA" hat and holding a thumb up
a photo of Brett Favre on a field in a crowd wearing a yellow blazer
Oct. 11, 2022
'I Have Done Nothing Wrong'
In a statement to Fox News, Brett Favre says he did "nothing wrong" and says he has been "unjustly smeared by the media." Favre reiterates his claim that he did not know the funds he received or the volleyball funds came from federal welfare dollars. His attorney, Eric Herschmann, tells Fox News that the text in which Favre asked Nancy New if the media could find out the source of his $1.1 million payment was due to Favre's concerns over the media knowing the money came from a non-profit—not that it came from federal welfare dollars.

“Brett entered into a private agreement to record a publicity pitch for a not-for-profit,” Fox News reports Herschmann saying. “Like most celebrities, he didn’t want his source of income to be public. That’s why he asked would it become public. He had no idea that the payment came from TANF and had he known, he never would have accepted the money.” (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke, File)

Oct. 11, 2022
a photo of Brett Favre on a field in a crowd wearing a yellow blazer
Oct. 11, 2022
'It Is Hypocritical'
In a Hinds County court filing in MDHS’s civil case, the agency asks the court to reject defendants Nancy New and Zach New’s motions for a stay and a pause on discovery. “MDHS does not have all of the New Defendant’s emails or text messages, though apparently many journalists in Mississippi do,” the MDHS court filing says. The filing says the New defendants should not be able “to use the discovery process when it suits them and fall behind the shield of their Motion to Stay when it does not.”

“It is hypocritical, for example, for Nancy New to provide her personal text messages with Brett Favre to MCEC so that it could then include them as 30 separately filed exhibits … available to the public—while claiming at the same time in this Motion that Nancy New should not have to disclose any of her text messages to MDHS,” the agency argues.

In a separate motion, MDHS also asks the court to reject John Davis’s request for a stay as well as for any of the other 37 defendants.

Oct. 11, 2022

This timeline was last updated on Oct. 11, 2022.

Editor’s Note: Jones Walker provides legal services to the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, which produces the Mississippi Free Press. Attorney Brad Pigott has also donated to the Mississippi Free Press in the past. Christopher Freeze and Shad White have submitted Free Press opinion columns. Neither the law firm, Pigott, White nor Freeze have any influence on our coverage.

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