Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said Thursday that he has left town to assist with recovery efforts related to Hurricane Matthew as part of his regular deployment for the U.S. Naval Reserve.
The parish president's top aide, Chief Operating Officer Keith Conley, said Yenni — who was supposed to give a statement Thursday or Friday about a sexting scandal that engulfed his administration last week — and his staff knew he could be called into service.
In a letter sent to the Parish Council, Yenni said he has "received military orders for deployment" and that Conley would serve as acting parish president while he is gone. Both Yenni's letter and Conley said the deployment could keep the parish president out of town through next week.
Yenni's letter said his orders related to expected damage along the East Coast.
Navy Reserve Commander Doug Gabos, a public affairs officer, said Yenni was assigned to the Navy Operational Support Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Yenni, a lieutenant, is a public affairs officer, and his unit was recently asked to provide public affairs help as the Navy and the rest of the country braces for Hurricane Matthew's arrival, Gabos said.
Gabos could not say Thursday whether Yenni volunteered for his deployment. But it would be common for a reserve unit tapped to provide support to ask its members which of them were willing to be deployed.
Typically, reservists are required to report to their units one weekend per month and two weeks annually for training. Gabos said Yenni's deployment would count toward those requirements.
Yenni sent a minute-long prerecorded message addressing the allegations to local television news stations, which are expected to air it on their 10 p.m. newscasts Thursday. A Yenni spokesman said WGNO, WVUE, WDSU and WWL-TV accepted the commercial.
WWL, which broke the story, said at first declined but later said it would do so without charge.
Yenni has been publicly silent since last Thursday, when WWL, 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 FBI has been looking into allegations that Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni sent se…
The teenager told the station he met Yenni, who is married, in 2015, when Yenni was mayor of Kenner. He 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.
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.
In a written statement, At-Large Councilman Chris Roberts said he apprciates the service the military provides in response to hurricanes, though he once again urged Yenni to address the issue "at the absolute earliest possible time."
The council chambers at Kenner City Hall were packed Wednesday for a meeting of the visiting…
Roberts said he and fellow council members had made it clear that the time to address the public about the allegations was Wednesday's Parish Council meeting, which Yenni skipped, saying his presence would be a distraction.
"This is going to be a distraction no matter when it is addressed," Roberts said. " The council did not express to him that these matters were distracting from business at hand at yesterday's meeting."
Roberts said that letting the questions linger is the biggest distraction and "many believe it will remain a issue until addressed head-on by those (who) owe this respect to the public we serve."
Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken released a statement saying she appreciates "his military commitments due to Hurricane Matthew and await his response as promised."