Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni purchased a table at Jesuit High School’s commencement lunch 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.
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It was at that same event in 2015 that Yenni first saw a teen-ager with whom he later exchanged a series of explicit texts that have attracted the attention of federal investigators. The FBI has confirmed it is looking into those texts; the bureau has interviewed at least four people about them, according to WWL-TV.
The youth 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.
The youth who exchanged the texts with Yenni told WWL-TV – which broke the story Thursday, and agreed not to name the boy – that a friend helped introduce the two after Yenni spotted him at the commencement lunch.
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The youth said he and Yenni began to talk on the phone and text, and soon, the politician came to visit him at his job at a mall food court. The youth said they met in a bathroom, Yenni gave him some designer underwear, and they kissed briefly.
Tom Bagwill, director of institutional advancement for Jesuit High School, did not return calls from The Advocate seeking comment Tuesday.
The allegations about Yenni very nearly surfaced in last year’s election for the parish’s highest office, when Yenni – then mayor of Kenner – faced off against former Parish Councilman and schools superintendent Elton Lagasse.
A couple of months after the election, in late January, Lagasse sent a letter to Archbishop Gregory Aymond containing a report his campaign 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 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.