Mike Yenni, the president of Jefferson Parish, is accused of sending lewd messages to a 17-year-old high school student
By all accounts, Mike Yenni was a rising star in Louisiana politics.
That ascent has since been derailed by accusations of sexual impropriety with a teenage boy, which Yenni appeared to admit to, in part, in a recent TV commercial where he nonetheless vowed to remain in office.
A married dad of a 3-year-old daughter, Yenni served as the mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, for five years. Last year, he left that job to become the president of Jefferson Parish, just outside New Orleans — a position that put him in charge of operations for a municipality of more than 400,000 people.
But now, the 40-year-old Republican finds himself under fire for allegedly having an improper relationship with a male teenager two years ago, culminating in lewd text messages to the 17-year-old, WWL reports. Yenni is also accused of kissing the teen, who is reportedly now 19, in a bathroom and giving him designer underwear.
In the lewd texts, Yenni allegedly suggested a threesome and asked the teen if he was wearing the underwear he gave him, according to the station.
After news of the relationship became public, Yenni released a video Thursday in which he apologized for his behavior.
“Last summer, I was old enough to know better, but I guess I was still young enough to do something stupid,” Yenni says in the minute-long video (seen below).
“I chose to send improper texts to a young man … I made a bad decision. I regret my actions. I apologize to the families involved, and anyone who I embarrassed — especially my own family and the people of Jefferson.”
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Yenni has not been charged with any crime, but WWL reports that the FBI is “aware of the allegations and are looking into it.”
The age of consent in Louisiana is 17, meaning that Yenni would have committed no crime if he had sexual contact with the teen. (The teen told WWL they did not have sex.) But the requirements of federal law are different: Yenni could face charges for sexting someone under the age of 18.
As the scandal has spread across Louisiana, the Jefferson Parish council members have pressured Yenni to resign. Yenni insists that he’s not going anywhere.
“While I understand your position and your concerns,” he wrote in a letter on Monday, “I have and will continue to dutifully perform the obligations of the Office of Parish President.”
In the letter, which Yenni’s office sent to PEOPLE, he also insists that he did not violate any law, nor has he been contacted by the FBI. His office did not deny the allegations about his relationship with the teen.
Yenni’s video echoes his resolve to stay in office.
“I will work every day to prove that good people can rise from a bad decision,” he says. “I want to reassure the citizens of Jefferson that I never abused or misused my powers as a public official, and I’m certainly not afraid of the future because I’m smart enough to never repeat the past.”