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Auditor demands repayment of millions in misspent welfare money

State Auditor Shad White said his office served demands Tuesday for more than $77 million plus...
State Auditor Shad White said his office served demands Tuesday for more than $77 million plus interest for misspent TANF funds. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)(LM Otero | AP)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 3:32 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WTOK) - State Auditor Shad White’s office served demands Tuesday for more than $77 million of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) money he said has been misspent according to multiple audits. The demand issued to former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director, John Davis, for his role in authorizing the illegal spending, was for over $96 million with interest included.

The demands were also issued to vendors who received the money yet failed to do all the work required under their contracts.

DHS’s forensic audit, which was conducted by an independent, outside CPA firm from Maryland, released its findings on October 1.

White said two nonprofits, the Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center, either misspent or improperly dispersed portions of the $77 million, meaning the money was ultimately misspent by a vendor to the nonprofit. As a result, the board and leadership of MCEC were served with a demand for $68.159 million. FRC’s board and leadership were served with a demand for $15.549 million.

Auditors issued additional demands to vendors who received part of the $77 million in welfare spending but did not completely fulfill the terms of their contracts:
• Austin Smith: $378,791
• Brett Dibiase: $225,950
• Favre Enterprises, along with Brett Favre and Robert Culumber: $828,000
• Heart of David Ministries, controlled by Ted Dibiase, Sr.: $722,299
• JTS Enterprises and Transformational Ventures, controlled by Brian Jeff Smith: $674,715
• The Marcus Dupree Foundation, controlled by Marcus Dupree: $789,534
• Nancy New: $2,589 (for payments received from FRC)
• NCC Ventures, controlled by Nicholas Coughlin: $237,915
• Ted Dibiase, Jr.: $3.903 million
• Warren Washington Issaquena Sharkey Community Action Agency, along with agency leaders Jan Vaughn, Jannis Williams, Janice Jelks, and Delinda Robinson: $75,261
• Zach New: $74,118 (for payments received from FRC)

Former DHS Deputy Director Jacob Black was also served with a demand for $1,824 for unallowable first-class air travel.

White said the board members, nonprofit executives and individuals are liable jointly and severally for the demands. This means the individuals share responsibility for repaying portions of the total amount with John Davis.

The auditor said if the demanded amounts are not repaid within 30 days, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is responsible for enforcing the demands in court. These demands are civil in nature, not criminal. A civil demand does not imply criminal liability.

“I’m grateful that DHS’s Director Bob Anderson has worked with the Attorney General’s Office to hire an attorney to recover these funds. These demands serve as the next step in the recovery process. If there is more money that the Attorney General believes has been misspent than what we have identified in these demands, we stand ready to help them investigate if needed,” said White. “More demands are possible.”

At this time, the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor said it would not comment on the current criminal investigation or proceedings.

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