It’s been a rough go of it for Mike Yenni, a Republican who leaves office January 8 after serving only one term as Jefferson Parish president. Yenni’s political future seemed bright four years ago after he was sworn into the same office his grandfather and uncle once held. Yenni chose not to run for a second term despite coming from one of the most prominent and well-regarded political families in Jefferson Parish history. It was a wise choice. Yenni had little chance of winning reelection.
The Mike Yenni era in Jefferson Parish unofficially ended last week, less than four years after voters promoted the former Kenner mayor to a p…
In 2015, Yenni sent graphic, sexually charged texts to a then-17-year old Jesuit High School student. Yenni wrote that he wanted to see the 17-year old wear underwear he bought him and see him naked. Yenni also told the teen he wanted him to perform an oral sex act on him. The texts first became public in September 2016 after the teen released them to WWL-TV.
Yenni’s reputation took another hit after media reports surfaced showing he spent close to $200,000 of taxpayer money renovating and refurnishing his office to make it resemble former President George W. Bush’s Oval Office in the White House. The renovation even included a rug reading “Office of the President” like the one found in the White House.
Jefferson Parish Inspector General David McClintock released a report on Yenni’s office renovations in October and found $119,214 of the taxpayer money spent was questionable. McClintock recommended the Parish Council adopt policy changes to prevent such abuse of taxpayer money in the future.
Every decade or so, rival political factions go to war in Jeff Parish. It helps get rid of the bad blood.
In an obvious move of retaliation, the day after Yenni viewed a draft of the IG report, he filed a complaint with the parish’s Ethics and Compliance Commission, which oversees the Office of Inspector General, accusing McClintock of overspending on his own office space. The commission found the Yenni complaint without merit.
But Yenni wasn’t finished retaliating against McClintock. On Wednesday, Yenni filed an ordinance that would, for all practical purposes, cause the parish Inspector General’s office to lose its independence. If the Council approves the Yenni ordinance, the IG’s office would have to first get approval from the parish attorney before accessing any information for an investigation. McClintock says if the ordinance passes, it will mean “the Parish Attorney’s Office will become a safe harbor from IG investigations.” The parish attorney serves at the pleasure of the parish president.
McClintock hopes the council takes a deliberative approach to the Yenni ordinance and waits for new members to take office in January. If the current council approves the ordinance, it will have to do so at its final meeting on Wednesday.
Yenni clearly has it out for McClintock. During a speech last month, Yenni joked that one of his staffers who oversaw "antiterrorism" had failed because McClintock was "still walking around."
Yenni recently criticized McClintock and his investigators for going through hundreds of parish emails, some of which were private. McClintock defended the searches, noting that his office was created to investigate "the inner workings of parish government." McClintock said the email searches were a part of legitimate investigations by his office.
McClintock criticized Yenni for accessing and then disclosing to certain council members a list of some of the email searches his office conducted. That list was then leaked to the media. McClintock said the leaking could potentially compromise current and future investigations. Under state law and parish ordinance, the parish's inspector general has access to the parish's email servers without a warrant and in real-time.
Last year, the parish's Ethics and Compliance Commission voted to give McClintock a second term as inspector general. Chairwoman Carroll Suggs said McClintock had "met and exceeded all benchmarks set for him by this commission." Yenni opposed the reappointment of McClintock.
If Yenni’s attempt to neuter the IG’s office in retaliation for McClintock simply doing his job is successful, it would be a clear betrayal of his constituents’ wishes. In 2011, Jefferson Parish voters created the inspector general’s office by close to a 70% margin 19 months after former Parish President Aaron Broussard resigned amid a federal investigation.
McClintock is hardly to blame for Yenni’s political troubles. Those began the day he sent sexually suggestive texts to a 17-year old boy.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.