Favre has not returned several text messages sent to him by the Associated Press since Monday. His manager, Bus Cook, told AP on Wednesday: “We have nothing to say. “
Details of the payments to Favre are included in an audit of the Mississippi Department of Human Services released Monday. State auditor Shad White said his employees had identified $ 94 million in questionable agency spending, including payments for sports activities unrelated to helping those in need in one of the poorest states in the United States.
The audit was released several months after a former director of social services and five others were charged with embezzlement of approximately $ 4 million. They have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in what White has called one of the biggest public corruption cases in Mississippi in decades.
“If there was a way to spend the wrong money, it would appear that DHS officials or their beneficiaries thought about it and tried it,” said White.
White said the human services audit “shows the most egregious expenses my staff have seen in their careers. “
Payments to Favre were made by the Mississippi Community Education Center, a group that had contracts with the Department of Social Services to spend money through the temporary help program for needy families. The audit indicates that Favre Enterprises was paid $ 500,000 in December 2017 and $ 600,000 in June 2018, and was expected to speak for at least three events. The auditor’s report states that “after a quick review of these dates, the listeners were able to determine that the contracted person did not speak and was not present during these events.”
READ MORE: Auditor says more than $ 4 million was stolen from Mississippi welfare funds
Favre, who lives in Mississippi, faces no criminal charges. The audit report lists the payments made to him as “questioned” costs, which White says means that “the auditors clearly saw past expenses or were unable to verify that the money had been lawfully spent. “
John Davis was Director of the Department of Human Services from January 2016 to July 2019, appointed by the governor at the time. Phil Bryant – a Republican who also appointed White to the office when a former auditor resigned. Davis was one of those charged; another was Nancy New, who was the director of the Mississippi Community Education Center. Davis, New and the other accused have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
AP left a phone message Wednesday at the Jackson office of the Mississippi Community Education Center with questions about payments to Favre. There was no immediate response.
Auditor’s Report Says Department of Social Services Leaders, Particularly Davis, “Participated in Widespread and Ubiquitous Conspiracy to Bypass Internal Controls, State Laws, and Federal Regulations” In Order To Grant Funds to certain people and groups. Davis has asked two groups that have received grants, the Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, to spend money with certain other individuals or groups, the auditor’s report said.
White said the two nonprofit groups received more than $ 98 million in grants from the Department of Social Services in the three years ending June 30. Most of the money came from temporary help to families in need.
White said the audit would be sent to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and that federal officials would decide to sanction the state for the delinquent expenses, said White.
The audit found that the Mississippi Community Education Center awarded service contracts to relatives of Davis, including a business owned by his brother-in-law and nephew. He said the Family Resource Center used social assistance money to buy one vehicle for more than $ 50,000 and another for almost $ 28,000. White said the Department of Social Services should take the vehicles because they were purchased with public money.
The audit found that the Mississippi Center for Community Education spent $ 1.3 million on a group called Victory Sports Foundation to organize three 12-week training camps. White said that some participants paid but were not selected for temporary assistance eligibility for needy families. The audit found that state lawmakers and other elected officials attended fitness classes for free. White said Monday that the non-profit group is responsible for the expenses in question, not the participants.
Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report from Aurora, Colorado.