JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre has yet to pay back $600,000 he received from the state of Mississippi for multiple speaking events where he never showed up, authorities said Tuesday.
He promised to repay the state after an audit released in May 2020 revealed $1.1 million had been paid to Favre's company, Favre Enterprises. The amount was part of $94 million in welfare spending that was “questioned” by auditors who said they either saw clear misspending or could not verify whether money was lawfully spent.
Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the U.S., and the $94 million was earmarked for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, also known as TANF.
Mississippi Community Education Center had contracts with the Mississippi Department of Human Services to spend money through TANF. The report said auditors found payments for sports activities and other events with no clear connection to helping needy people.
Favre made an initial payment of $500,000 to the state a few days after the report was released. But, Logan Reeves, a spokesman for Mississippi Auditor Shad White, said Tuesday that the auditor's office has not heard since then from the Hall-of-Famer who lives near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“After the initial media dustup, he stroked a check for $500 grand and gave a commitment, a voluntary commitment, to repay the rest in the coming months,” Reeves told The Associated Press. “And then, that didn’t happen.”
Favre’s agent did not return a request from The AP for comment Tuesday.
The audit claimed Favre Enterprises was paid $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018, and Favre was supposed to have made speeches for at least three events. The auditor’s report said “upon a cursory review of those dates, auditors were able to determine that the individual contracted did not speak nor was he present for those events.”
Favre has not been accused of a crime.
Several people, including the former head of the state’s welfare agency, top officials at the Mississippi Community Education Center and ex-wrestler Brett DiBiase, were indicted in state court and are awaiting trial in the aftermath of the audit. Two of the people indicted on state charges have also been indicted on federal charges and have pleaded not guilty to those.
White said last year there was no indication Favre knew the money he was receiving was meant for helping needy residents. The auditor applauded Favre's announcement in May 2020 that he would repay the money, at the time calling it a “good-faith effort” to right the situation and the harm it had caused Mississippi families.
Reeves said Tuesday that no formal agreement was made then between Favre and the state for the former quarterback to pay the money, nor has he been mandated by the state or federal government to do so.
“He’s under no obligation to do so, other than him giving his word,” Reeves said.
Reeves said the case is now in the hands of the federal Office of the Inspector General, which will make a final determination about whether money was misspent and whether it needs to be paid back.
When federal officials make that decision, they could choose to take no action, or to ask Favre and others to pay money back, Reeves said. The state of Mississippi could be asked to repay the money from its general fund, or federal authorities could choose to withhold a percentage of Mississippi’s federal funding until the money is repaid.
Developments involving Favre Enterprises were first reported by Mississippi Today, a nonprofit news organization that has closely followed the state welfare scandal and fallout.
Besides Favre, no other people mentioned in the audit have paid any welfare money back to the state or offered to do so, Reeves said.
This story corrects the first reference to state Auditor Shad White.
Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.