GRETNA, LA (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said during Wednesday's council meeting that his texting controversy is a personal matter, and he reiterated that he is not stepping down.
But council members and some in the public said that is the wrong answer from Yenni.
At the first council meeting since using a TV commercial to apologize for sending improper text messages to a 17-year-old male, Yenni came with his words prepared.
"This has been one of the most demoralizing and disappointing times in my life. My disappointment is solely with me," he said while seated facing the Parish Council.
Members of the public who want him to step down, as well as some who backed Yenni, filled the council chambers.
Yenni addressed the issue at the start of the meeting saying, "I never expect you, or the people I have disappointed, to ever forget my iniquity, but I hope you and all will let mercy triumph over judgment."
He spoke again during the meeting as council members who had urged him weeks ago in a letter to resign were about to take a vote of no confidence and pass a resolution urging him to resign.
"They were personal actions between me and a college-bound legal adult of which I did not meet or speak to this person at any high school functions…I am deeply sorry for my actions," Yenni said.
But the majority of the public who spoke during the meeting blasted Yenni.
"With this embarrassment, this international embarrassment - it's reached international news - we cannot see going forward with Mike Yenni as parish president," said resident George Peterson.
"You can stay in that seat if you want to, but the people are going to get you out of that seat, and I can tell you something else, I'm going to demand your resignation at every meeting," said resident Al Morella with a raised voice.
Outside the parish government complex, signatures were being collected on a recently begun petition drive against Yenni.
"He says it's a personal matter, but it's not personal. As a leader in public office, he's not fit to serve and be a leader," said Charlene Mahner, who worked to get signatures.
But some voiced their support for Yenni's stance.
"Let the recall happen. If they recall him, praise the Lord, but let the voters speak. They're hired by voters to do their job. Their job is to work with him," said the Rev. Aubrey Wallace.
"My personal life has been invaded, but I shall not let my public life be invalidated," Yenni said during the meeting.
And he said no government cellphones or equipment were used in texting with the young man.
"I have not violated any laws," continued Yenni.
"I think it's very well documented how the public feels about this. The council feels as though that we are representing the will of the public," said Councilman-at-Large Chris Roberts.
"This is a terribly difficult day. I think for everyone involved, and it's not about condemnation, it's about concern. We are concerned that the business of Jefferson Parish government needs to move forward," said Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken.
They fear the controversy will impede the parish's progress and may turn off voters when they are asked to renew taxes this year.
"Something that I think is going to have an impact on day-to-day operations, and we're trying to make sure that everyone understands that we recognize that," said Roberts.
But Yenni remained resolute.
"I am asking for each of you to let me do my job," he said.
Despite the ongoing controversy, Yenni and council members said they will continue to focus on the business of Jefferson Parish government.
Organizers of the petition drive have six months to collect 90,000 signatures to force a recall election.