Update, 3:35 p.m., Friday: Jefferson Parish Council members Ben Zahn, Mark Spears, Jennifer Van Vrancken and Paul Johnston have now also called for Mike Yenni to resign following the parish president's admission that he sent sexually explicit text messages to a teenage boy -- meaning the council is now unanimous in that view. 

The letter seeking Yenni's immediate resignation from Zahn, Spears, Van Vrancken and Johnston follows a similar one from Parish Council members Cynthia Lee-Sheng, Chris Roberts and Ricky Templet earlier Friday.

Sheriff Newell Normand, the parish's most powerful elected official and perhaps its most popular, also had said Yenni must step down in an interview with The New Orleans Advocate earlier Friday. 

The two council letters are similar in theme, asserting that Yenni should resign because his admission will make it difficult for the parish government to operate smoothly. However, the second letter pledges that neither Zahn, Spears, Van Vrancken or Johnston would run to complete the unexpired term that Yenni would leave behind if he quits his post. 

The earlier letter from Roberts, Lee-Sheng and Templet doesn't contain similar language. 

Yenni's four-year term began in early January. 

Check back later with The New Orleans Advocate for more details later. Here is the second letter: 

Update, 2 p.m., Friday

Sheriff Newell Normand, Jefferson Parish's most powerful elected official and perhaps its most popular, is joining the chorus of those who would like to see Mike Yenni resign following the parish president's admission that he sent sexually explicit text messages to a teenage boy.

Contacted by The New Orleans Advocate on Friday, Normand said "the best course of action at this point is for the parish president to resign." Parish Councilmembers Cynthia Lee-Sheng, Chris Roberts and Ricky Templet communicated a similar sentiment in a letter addressed to Yenni, a former Kenner mayor, on Friday.

"This is a very unfortunate situation," Normand said, who has been political allies with Yenni for several years. "Obviously, Parish President Yenni has done a great job in his career as a Kenner mayor and up to this point as parish president. Unfortunately, the allegations that have been made are significant and severe, and his admission to what he said in (a taped and televised statement) Thursday evening shed a whole different light on the subject."

He continued, "And as such, I join the three council members who outlined part of the situation and the difficulties moving forward governing this parish — because there will be others."

Normand is not alone in believing Yenni had been an effective politician before the sexting scandal that has embroiled his administration. Yenni enjoyed an approval rating north of 70 percent as recently as early April, some three months into his job as parish president, which he won after serving as Kenner's mayor for six years.

However, residents began calling for Yenni to step down almost immediately after WWL-TV broke the story Sept. 29 that he was under federal investigation for sexually explicit texts to the teen in question. Public officials then began following course shortly after Yenni admitted to sending "improper texts to a young man" in a commercial aired on local newscasts Thursday night. 

According to WWL-TV, Yenni and the teen met at a function at Jesuit High School in the spring of 2015. Like Yenni and the boy, Normand is also a Jesuit High School graduate. 

Yenni media consultant Greg Buisson said the parish president expects to issue a response to the resignation demands but couldn't say when that might come.

Yenni on Thursday notified the Parish Council that he had deployed with the U.S. Navy Reserve for operations related to Hurricane Matthew. The Navy Reserve said Yenni, a lieutenant and public affairs officer, was in Norfolk, Virginia, to assist in disseminating information as the U.S. East Coast braced to deal with Hurricane Matthew. 

While the council has some capability to investigate the parish president, it can't forcibly remove him from office. So, if Yenni is to eventually leave office, the likely paths will be a successful recall or a resignation.

As of Friday afternoon, there was no recall petition filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.

If Yenni were to resign, the parish council would have 30 days to fill the vacancy. Each council member would have three days to submit one name before a special meeting is held for a public discussion of qualifications and presentations from each nominee.

At a second meeting, the council would vote for its choice.

If there is more than one year left on the term – which in Yenni’s case there is – a special election would need to be called. The council’s choice for the interim would be barred from running for the post in that election.

Update, 11:30 a.m. Friday

Three members of the Jefferson Parish Council have signed a letter asking for Parish President Mike Yenni to resign in the wake of revelations that he sent sexually explicit text messages to a teenage boy.

The letter was endorsed by the parish's two at-large council members, Chairwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng and Chris Roberts, as well as Parish Councilman Ricky Templet.  

At 10:21 a.m. Friday, Lee-Sheng sent the draft of the letter to her colleagues and in an accompanying email told them they could review it. She also said they had until 11:45 a.m. Friday to advise if they wanted to sign the letter.

Though he didn't sign the letter Lee-Sheng distributed, Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn issued a statement asserting that he "can't condone the actions" of Yenni, who has been a political ally of Zahn.

"I am surprised to learn the information released in both news reports and from the parish president's personal statement" on Thursday, Zahn also said. "My focus at this time is the business of the parish and responding to the needs of the constituents." 

Meanwhile, WWL-TV reported Friday that some of the four remaining Parish Council members were working on a separate letter addressing Yenni's admitted sexting. Zahn later confirmed and he and "several other council members will be issuing a joint letter to the parish president in short order." 

Zahn is one of five candidates running in Kenner's mayoral election next month, made necessary early this year when Yenni stepped down as the city's mayor to become parish president. 

Check back with The New Orleans Advocate later for more details. 

Original story

Jefferson Parish's two at-large council members say they will issue a statement Friday calling on Parish President Mike Yenni to resign from office hours after he admitted he sent sexually explicit text messages to a teenager last year while campaigning for his current job.

Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng said she and fellow parishwide Councilman Chris Roberts will ask for the resignation of Yenni, who capped a week of anticipation over how he would address the scandal engulfing his administration by sending a minute-long television commercial to local stations hours after he announced, unexpectedly, that he was leaving town with the U.S. Navy Reserve. In the ad, Yenni apologized for sending inappropriate texts to a 17-year-old boy, without going into detail about the substance of the allegations.


Trouble seeing the video? Click here

Lee-Sheng cited Yenni's admissions as the impetus for Friday's call. Yenni was mayor of Kenner when he sent the texts.

She said Yenni's behavior and bad judgment had already distracted Jefferson Parish from its business for a week and that with three millage renewals coming up, the parish cannot afford to have such distractions dominating its leadership.

Advocating for the millages and other parish business, she said, "is his job and his role and I believe his ability to do that has been compromised."

Lee-Sheng said she and Roberts are simply working on the logistics of getting some of the other council members signing on to the letter, which she hoped would be released before noon Friday.

WWL-TV, citing sources, reported last week that the FBI has interviewed at least four people about texts Yenni sent to the young man, then 17, 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, now 19 and a sophomore in college, but did not identify him by name in the report.

The teenager told the station he met Yenni in 2015. The youth said Yenni later met him at a mall food court where the teen worked, gave him some designer underwear and briefly kissed him in the restroom.

Until Thursday, Yenni had been silent on the matter, though the news broke a week earlier. He skipped Wednesday's Parish Council meeting, despite calls from several council members for him to address the allegations and take questions from constituents directly.

Yenni's Thursday night commercial stressed contrition and he said he would work hard to regain constituents' trust, but he did not specifically address the allegations in the story: that he kissed the teen in question, bought him designer underwear, suggested having group sex with him and even offered to help get him a job in his administration.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.

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