Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni has never been contacted by the FBI about allegations that he sent sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old boy shortly before being elected last year, a Yenni spokesman said.
The allegations were first reported by WWL-TV late Thursday, and the FBI confirmed to the station that it was looking into them. WWL, citing sources, reported that the FBI had interviewed at least four people about the texts. The report did not say that Yenni was among them.
Yenni's spokesman, Greg Buisson, told The Advocate immediately after the report aired that Yenni — who declined an interview request from the station — did not plan to discuss the matter with reporters. In a text message, Buisson stressed that Yenni “has never been contacted by any authority, especially the FBI.”
Buisson did not return messages from The Advocate on Friday. But he told nola.com that "Mike does not believe there's any reason he should be contacted because he maintains that he has not violated any laws personally or professionally. And that's his belief at this point."
WWL spoke to the youth but did not identify him by name in the report. Now 19, he said he met Yenni at a high school function in 2015, when he was 17. He said Yenni, who was mayor of Kenner at the time, 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…
Reaction to the news from the Jefferson Parish Council on Friday was muted, with council members who responded to calls for comment mostly adopting a wait-and-see approach.
"The charges are very serious, whether or not any law was broken,” Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who occupies one of two at-large seats, said in a written statement. “Obviously, I'm sure this has been a very difficult day for both of the families involved. We have not yet heard from the parish president. He is going to have to directly address this matter with the public and his constituents."
The council has the authority to investigate any parish employee, a change written into the parish charter in the wake of the 2010 resignation of former Parish President Aaron Broussard, who stepped down and pleaded guilty to public corruption charges. It's not clear whether the council will use that investigative authority with Yenni.
Councilman Paul Johnston declined to comment, saying he'd prefer to let the federal investigation run its course.
Councilman Ben Zahn, a political ally of Yenni’s, said he planned to reserve judgment on the matter.
“I do not want to speculate about consequences, not knowing all the facts," Zahn said. "Not knowing any more about this matter than what was reported in the news, I have nothing to add at this time.”
Council members Chris Roberts, Ricky Templet, Mark Spears and Jennifer Van Vrancken did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.