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Who has the power to sue Brett Favre over welfare money? 1 Mississippi Republican sues another

Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre speaks to the media, Oct. 17, 2018, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File) Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre speaks to the media, Oct. 17, 2018, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
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JACKSON, Miss. -

Mississippi's Republican attorney general sued the Republican state auditor Thursday, saying the auditor is trying to usurp her authority over recovering interest on misspent welfare money from retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre -- money that was supposed to help some of the poorest people in the U.S.

Attorney General Lynn Fitch's lawsuit says that filing litigation over improperly spent money is the responsibility of the attorney general's office, not the auditor's.

Both the attorney general and the auditor are elected statewide, and the lawsuit is the latest rift between them.

Weeks ago, Fitch's office said it would no longer represent Auditor Shad White in a defamation lawsuit that Favre filed last year against the auditor. That change in representation came after an announcement that White is writing a book, to be published later this year, about his investigation into improper spending of welfare funds.

"Our standing as attorneys demands the highest level of respect for the law and the practice of law," Fitch said in a statement after she sued White on Thursday. "When we file in court in our official capacity it is not for our own amusement or political benefit; it is on behalf of the people and bears the burden having repercussions for all of the people's government."

She said White's earlier response to Favre's defamation suit "reflects none of this gravity."

White demanded that Favre repay the state nearly US$730,000. The Football Hall of Fame member lives in Mississippi. White says Favre improperly received US$1.1 million in welfare money for speaking engagements and Favre has repaid only part of it.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, White criticized Fitch's lawsuit against him and said he will fight in court for the right to recover as much public money as possible.

"Fitch failed to sue Favre for everything he owes -- and then sued to stop me from trying to get the money back, too," White said. "Just let me do the job, even if you won't."

Fitch's office said in the lawsuit Thursday that the attorney general has never declined to pursue additional litigation to try to get Favre to repay interest on misspent money.

White said in 2020 that Favre received speaking fees from a nonprofit organization that spent welfare money with approval from the Mississippi Department of Human Services. The money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program was to go toward a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi. Favre agreed to lead fundraising efforts for the facility at his alma mater, where his daughter started playing on the volleyball team in 2017.

Favre repaid US$500,000 to the state in May 2020 and US$600,000 in October 2021. In the Feb. 5 court filing, White said Favre still owes US$729,790 because interest caused growth in the original amount he owed.

Fitch's office said in the lawsuit Thursday that the attorney general has never declined to pursue additional litigation to try to get Favre to repay interest on misspent money.

Mississippi prosecutors have said millions of federal welfare dollars for low-income residents were squandered on projects supported by wealthy or well-connected people from 2016 to 2019.

Fitch's office filed a lawsuit in May 2022 against Favre and several other people, on behalf of the state Department of Human Services. That suit said TANF money was improperly spent, including on projects Favre supported: US$5 million for the volleyball arena and US$1.7 million toward development of a concussion treatment drug.

No criminal charges have been brought against Favre, who has said he has been "unjustly smeared" in media coverage. A former director of the state Department of Human Services and other people have pleaded guilty to their part in Mississippi's largest public corruption case in decades.

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