Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni made his first appearance before the parish council since news of his sexting scandal broke earlier last month
. The regular council meeting began with Yenni making a statement to councilmembers, repeatedly citing God and his Catholic faith, but stressing he was not stepping down from his job, despite calls from councilmembers and constituents to do so.
It only got more heated from there.
Outside the council chambers, two people from the newly formed group Recall Yenni
were gathering signatures on a petition to formally recall the parish president — including Charlene Mahner, a paralegal in the office of attorney Robert Evans, who organized the recall effort. Another group of supporters marched in a circle, wearing T-shirts that said "Keep Yenni."
After proclamations were read and an invocation was said, Yenni addressed the council in a brief statement that was long on contrition, but made it clear he had no intention of stepping down. Yenni cited his Catholic faith as having "guided me through this storm," and said he had "prayed longer and harder than I ever have before." Speaking of what he called the "immorality that once weakened me," he added, "I never expect you or the people I disappointed to forget my iniquity."
"My personal life has been invaded, but I shall not let my professional life be invalidated," Yenni said. "But now it is my job to lead our parish forward, and I humbly ask you to let me do this job."
The first public speaker, pastor Aubrey Wallace, was the only one to express support for Yenni, calling his actions "sleazy" and "the lowest you can get" but stressing God's redemption: "All of us got flaws. I don't think Sheriff Lee [the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee] would ask this man to resign, but maybe I'm wrong."
"Wrong," chorused several in the audience.
Al Morella of Kenner offered a fiery, shouted rebuttal to Wallace, jabbing his finger at Yenni, who was seated about four feet away with his back to the public lectern. "I support this resolution 250 percent," Morella said, adding, "Yenni, you're just sorry this 17-year-old came forward." Waggaman resident George Peterson called it an "international embarrassment" and added, "Mike, please. Do the right thing. Resign."
"Isn't is time we draw the line here on this seemingly endless assault on our Judeo-Christian values?" asked Dennis Burke of Metairie.
When public comment was over, Yenni spoke again, his head bowed, not facing the audience in the chamber. "I have apologized to my family and my God," he said. "I will not duck my detractors." Calling the young man at the center of the texting scandal "a college-bound legal adult," Yenni suggested "political antagonists" are working as "moral police" on this issue and reeled off a list of his accomplishments in office.
"I'm deeply sorry for my actions," he concluded.
The council was unmoved; its members cast a unanimous vote of no confidence in Yenni.
What's next? If Yenni continues to choose not to step down, the recall petition will continue, but the process likely will take months. Many Jefferson Parish officials have called for his resignation, including the Gretna and Westwego City Councils, Sheriff Newell Normand, Assessor Tom Capella, Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer, The city councils of Kenner and Harahan are set to vote on the matter Oct. 20.