DHS audit: Relatives, former football greats got their share of welfare dollars

Updated: May. 5, 2020 at 7:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - This week’s newly-released audit of the Mississippi Department of Human Services shows the lengths former agency head John Davis and others went to so they could keep spending tens of millions of your tax dollars -- unchecked -- for nearly three years.

However, they didn’t just spend it on themselves.

The state investigation shows Davis and others gave millions in federal welfare dollars toward sports-related activities... none of which has been proven to help the needy Mississippians it was intended for.

The DHS audit shows more connections between the major players now indicted on embezzlement charges and the major players who captivated fans for years on the field, like former NFL quarterback Brett Favre.

Over a six-month period starting in December 2017, State Auditor Shad White said Favre Enterprises received $1.1 million for speaking engagements he didn’t even attend.

Mississippi Secretary of State records analyzed by 3 On Your Side show Favre is the director and president of the company.

The audit also refers to a list of those events Favre failed to attend, but the state auditor’s office maintains that information isn’t public record.

The money came from the Mississippi Community Education Center, the nonprofit at the center of the auditor’s investigation, which received federal tax money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The audit shows MCEC also paid more than $640,000 toward a home and more than 15 acres of property in Flora for the Marcus Dupree Foundation, initially billed as for “equine assisted learning” and activities.

Dupree’s a former NFL running back from Mississippi.

Investigators later determined Dupree used the residence as his personal home.

While neither Dupree nor Favre face criminal charges in the case at this point, the audit lists those payments as “questioned costs,” which means the payment itself could have been spent illegally.

3 On Your Side reached out to Favre’s agent and Dupree to ask about the auditor’s findings, but they have not yet responded.

Though state investigators agree that it appears former DHS head John Davis was the mastermind behind what they call the most egregious misspending in decades, Monday’s audit shows Davis and his family also benefited heavily from those federal tax dollars.

In several instances, Davis’ relatives were not only hired for roles within MCEC, but their salaries were paid in lump sums, instead of throughout the year.

Davis’ brother in law got hired as a “leadership outreach coordinator,” making $150,000.

His nephew got a web design and coding job making nearly $140,000.

The audit shows that same nephew was also employed in another unspecified role by MCEC, making $10,000 a month, ultimately collecting more than 67 thousand dollars.

Investigators discovered another nonprofit, the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, hired the same relatives, and in one instance, to do the same work.

One payment from FRC illustrates that: $130,000 for Davis’ nephew to create a coding academy and web design program that the nephew was already getting paid to develop for MCEC.

Entries from that audit show those two relatives were paid more than $1 million dollars altogether.

State investigators said Davis played a big part in a conspiracy to “circumvent internal controls, state law and federal regulations” to direct grant money to certain people and nonprofits.

In some cases, the nonprofits purchased equipment with that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant money, like vehicles.

White said any purchases made by those organizations with federal welfare dollars need to be seized by DHS because they’re taxpayer property.

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