Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni on Wednesday mocked at allegations that he, or somebody who worked for him, stole binders filled with thousands of signatures for a recall petition seeking to oust him from office this year.
The accusation was made by Robbie Evans in a story on nola.com on Tuesday. Evans, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, was the organizer of a petition drive to recall Yenni after Yenni last fall admitted sending what he called "improper" text messages to a 17-year-old boy.
Evans told nola.com that the binders had been sitting on the floor of his Camaro convertible when he stopped by his office in March. Expecting to be inside for just a few minutes, he said, he didn't lock his car or put the top up. But he was delayed, and when he came back out, the binders were gone and there was a footprint on his back seat, he said.
Evans said he didn't report the theft because the car was not visible on surveillance camera footage and he was embarrassed by what had happened.
The stolen signatures — Evans estimated about 35,000 to 40,000 — were not enough to have made a difference in the effort to oust Yenni, which fell far short of the roughly 90,000 required to trigger a recall election.
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Although they eventually claimed they had collected more than 50,000 signatures, Evans and other members of the recall drive long declined to give specific figures. The claimed total apparently included the allegedly stolen names, only some of which had been entered into a database.
Evans did, however, point a finger at Yenni in the nola.com story, asking who else would have wanted the binders, which he said were labeled. What's more, he said, he had been followed by people in "parish" vehicles for some time during the recall drive.
On Wednesday, Yenni called the allegations ridiculous and denied that he ordered anybody to follow "Recall Robbie" or that anybody connected with him had stolen the binders.
"Robbie Evans is perpetuating another sham," Yenni said in a written statement, asking, "What lawyer leaves sensitive information exposed in the back seat of an open convertible?"
"If he truly believed he was being followed, wouldn’t it seem obvious to protect the signatures under lock and key?" Yenni asked, saying Evans was either lying about the recall petition signatures to begin with "or he is pitifully inept."
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"Now that media has asked to see the signatures, Robbie suddenly comes up with an Oliver Stone conspiracy story," he said, reiterating his contention that the recall effort against him was politically motivated.
Yenni was asked to step down by the Parish Council and virtually every parishwide elected official following the scandal, news of which was broken by WWL-TV in September 2016. However, he refused, and the controversy over his actions gradually died down with the failure of the recall effort.