The agenda for Wednesday’s Jefferson Parish Council meeting appears to be unremarkable: alcohol permit applications, a number of bids and contracts up for consideration and a call for an executive session.
What it doesn't include is anything related to what is sure to be the elephant in the room: allegations that Parish President Mike Yenni sent sexually explicit texts last year to a 17-year-old boy while campaigning for the post he now occupies.
Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng said that while there is no item on the agenda addressing the issue, she expects it to be brought up by constituents. And she thinks Yenni should respond.
“I do think it will come up tomorrow from the public, and I do think he’ll have to respond to the public,” she said Tuesday.
Councilman Chris Roberts agreed.
“At some point, there is going to have to be a statement coming from him addressing the public,” he said. “The feedback all of us are getting at this point is that’s what is expected, that this can’t just be left alone. I don’t think that’s going to work. At some point he’s going to have to address it.”
Yenni has been publicly silent since Thursday, when WWL-TV, citing sources, reported that the FBI has interviewed at least four people about texts Yenni sent to the young man, whom he met at an event at Jesuit High School. One of the texts included a proposal for group sex involving the two of them and a third person.
WWL spoke to the youth but did not identify him by name in the report.
The teenager told the station he met Yenni, who is married, in 2015, when Yenni was mayor of Kenner. The youth said Yenni later met him at a mall food court where the youth worked, gave him some designer underwear and briefly kissed him in the restroom.
The FBI has been looking into allegations that Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni sent se…
A spokesman said Yenni would not comment on the matter because he has not been contacted by any law enforcement organization and doesn’t believe he has violated any laws.
If the issue does come up Wednesday, it could be during the portion at the end of the meeting when constituents are allowed to raise any topic of interest. There also has been talk that some people might picket outside the meeting and call on Yenni to resign.
Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken said she thinks the ball is in Yenni’s court, not the council’s, because the matter doesn’t involve parish funds or property.
“At this point, it is a personal matter,” she said. “It is for the parish president to address. It is not, at this time, something that has a nexus with the business of parish government.”
The meeting will be held at Kenner City Hall, where the council meets once a year. It will begin at 9 a.m.
Yenni did not respond Tuesday to questions about whether he will attend the meeting or address the matter. He has been showing up to work at his parish office in Elmwood since the allegations were made public but has not spoken with reporters.
Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise backed out of an Oct. 27 fundraiser for Yenni. The congressman, who is the No. 3 ranking Republican in the House and is from Metairie, said he found the allegations "deeply troubling."
News also emerged Tuesday that Jesuit High School officials had discouraged Yenni from attending the school's 2016 commencement luncheon, the event at which he first saw the youth in 2015.
Yenni purchased a table for this year's luncheon in April, but school officials sent word to him through a friend that his presence there would not be welcome, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation. Yenni did not attend the function, the source said.
The youth who exchanged the texts with Yenni was 17 and a graduating senior at Jesuit at the time of the 2015 luncheon. He is now 19 and a sophomore in college.
Yenni is an alumnus of Jesuit and had been a regular at the school’s annual commencement luncheons. School officials became aware of the allegations about Yenni and the former student months before this year’s event, the source said.
Tom Bagwill, director of institutional advancement for Jesuit, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
The allegations about Yenni very nearly surfaced in last year’s election for the parish’s highest office, when Yenni faced off against Elton Lagasse, a parish councilman and former parish schools superintendent.
A couple of months after the election, in late January, Lagasse sent a letter to Archbishop Gregory Aymond containing a report his campaign had received about Yenni’s interactions with a student he met through Jesuit. The letter urged Aymond to investigate Yenni.
“As a grandfather of a child in a Catholic school, I am very concerned about the potential for future incidents of misconduct by Mr. Yenni should these allegations be confirmed by your investigation,” Lagasse wrote to Aymond.
Lagasse’s letter also predicted that Yenni “will certainly be attending many functions at schools in the parish.”
A Feb. 4 letter to Lagasse signed by Aymond — who officiated at Yenni’s wedding in 2011 and gave the invocation at his inauguration — said: “I appreciate receiving this information. As you know, we take such allegations very seriously.”
Yenni could not be reached for comment Tuesday on the Jesuit event.
Staff writers Gordon Russell and Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this story.