So now it's the people versus Mike Yenni. The disgraced Jefferson Parish president last week invoked God, prayer and redemption as his excuse for not resigning in the face of a sordid sexting scandal, even though more than 70 percent of his constituents and close to 100 percent of his fellow elected officials are telling him to give it up.
In the short space of a year, Yenni has gone from the youthful, energetic face of Jefferson Parish to a delusional suburban Caligula no one wants to see — anywhere. After WWL-TV broke the story about him sexting a 17-year-old high school senior for weeks — giving the young man designer underwear, kissing him in the men's bathroom of a shopping mall and sending him graphic texts describing sex acts he'd like to perform on him — Yenni has been barred from schools, churches and anywhere else young people gather.
He's now gone into full-blown bunker mode. Judging by his few public pronouncements, he's either getting really bad advice, or he's suffering a complete break from reality. Or both.
Here's some reality for Yenni to face: A poll conducted by Ron Faucheux for WWL-TV and The Advocate showed 72 percent of Jefferson voters would toss Yenni out of office if given the chance.
Metairie Attorney Rob Evans hopes to give voters that chance, having filed a recall petition against Yenni. Evans has less than six months to gather signatures from one-third of Jefferson's nearly 270,000 voters. That's a tall order, but folks in Jefferson are plenty upset at Yenni right now, and rightly so.
Here's the question: Can voters sustain their anger long enough for 90,000 or more of them to sign the recall petition? Yenni is banking they can't, or won't. He thinks if he can weather the immediate storm, voters eventually will overlook (if not forgive) his perverse pursuit of someone less than half his age — and still in high school — and give him a pass. Yenni, now 40, was 38 when he began sexting the high school kid, who now is a college student.
The scandal came to light when the young man wrote an essay warning other young gay men to avoid "predatory" older men like Yenni. Yenni responded last week by showing his true narcissistic, Machiavellian colors. He referred to the youth as "a college-bound adult" — as if to cast his 17-year-old victim as a fully formed man. Seventeen may be the age of sexual consent under state law, but federal law criminalizes sexting to people under the age of 18 — which is also the age one must be to vote or join the military.
Many are wondering why the feds haven't moved on Yenni. WWL-TV's David Hammer reported several times that the FBI is looking into the matter, and speculation abounds that Yenni has other victims. This much is certain: The feds don't rush when putting together a case like this. They have a high conviction rate because they move deliberately and methodically to put together airtight cases. Yenni did them a solid when his crack PR team had him admitting in a scripted video statement that he sent "improper texts." If other victims come forward, Yenni will be lucky if the feds merely let him resign.
Meanwhile, Yenni refuses to face the media, and last week he declined even to face the voters he claims to be serving. At the Parish Council meeting on Oct. 19, seated literally and figuratively with his back to the public, he told the parish council that his Catholic faith and his hope for redemption will carry him through.
That may be true on a spiritual level, but this is not a matter of judging Yenni's immortal soul. This is a matter of holding him accountable to the body politic. To paraphrase Jesus, the question of whether Yenni should remain in office is in Caesar's court, not God's.
Yenni clearly won't leave unless forced to do so, either by the feds or by the voters. To the people of Jefferson, I say: Don't count on the feds, folks. If you want Yenni out, get off your duffs and recall him. It's the surest way to save your parish.
A TIMELY POLITICAL GATHERING — Next Thursday, Nov. 3, the Loyola Institute of Politics (IOP) will host its annual fundraiser from 5:30 p.m. till 7:30 p.m. at the Basin Street Station, 501 Basin St., near the French Quarter. The annual fundraiser not only benefits a great cause, but it also occurs every year at the height of campaign season. This year there's an additional twist: Former Campaigns & Elections Editor Ron Faucheux and I will offer commentary on the current political season — from the race for the White House to local and statewide elections.
The IOP event always attracts an A-list of local movers, shakers and politicos, and this year's fundraiser will provide a fitting backdrop for an evening of analysis, speculation and rumors. Tickets are $75 a person, but additional donations are happily accepted. For tickets and more info, contact IOP Director Tommy Screen at (504) 864-7082 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.