Mike Yenni, the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, in the New Orleans area, has garnered national attention after releasing a television commercial in which he confesses to sending “inappropriate messages” to a 17-year-old boy.
Amid numerous calls for Yenni to resign, reports now indicate that the FBI is looking into the case.
Yenni, 40, is married to a woman and the couple has a three-year-old daughter. He says he has no intention to step down.
The ad consists simply of Yenni addressing the camera and stating the following:
“I’m addressing you through this commercial because I don’t want my words to be edited. I believe you deserve the truth from me directly. Last summer, I was old enough to know better, but I guess I was still young enough to still do something stupid. I chose to send improper texts to a young man. I won’t go into details out of respect for the rights and privacy of all parties.”
“Now, I will work every day to prove that good people can rise from a bad decision,” Yenni said. “I want to reassure the citizens of Jefferson that I never abused or misused my powers as a public official. And I’m certainly not afraid of the future because I’m smart enough to never repeat the past.”
Seventeen is the age of sexual consent in Louisiana, but federal regulations bar sending sexually explicit message to anyone under 18. The young man in question is now 19.
WGNO said Yenni allegedly met the teen at a Jesuit High School Function in 2015. Yenni was the mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, at the time. He is also accused of offering the youth a job at the mayor’s office so they could spend more time together.
According to People magazine, Yenni allegedly kissed the teen in a bathroom and bought him designer underwear.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans has since banned Yenni from all activities on all of their campuses. He’s also reportedly banned from all schools in Jefferson Parish — an order with which Yenni says he will comply.
WGNO reports that a notable Metairie attorney, Robert Evans III, has launched a recall petition to remove the Parish President from office. Evans has six months to collect about 95,000 signatures of registered voters in order to oust Yenni.
After the petition announcement, Yenni released the following statement:
“I will abide by the will of the people. I have acknowledged my mistake, and I have taken full responsibility. I have also vowed to focus my attention on governing and meeting the demands that I am expected to meet. I have not violated my oath, nor have I abused or misused the power of my office.
I have, in no way, given anyone cause to believe that I am not doing the job that I was elected to do. The incident at the center of this allegation is personal, and I was not Parish President at the time of the incident. There has been no misuse of tax dollars or public assets.
I can hope the people of Jefferson will afford me the opportunity to prove that I will separate my personal challenge from my public responsibility, and that I can rise above this.”
Sources tell WWL-TV that FBI agents interviewed at least four people possibly connected to the case. The station also claims to have seen the messages printed out for them by the teen who was involved.
Man photo: Mike Yenni TV ad/screenshot