FOX 8 Exclusive: Mike Yenni talks about texting controversy, family support

FOX 8 Exclusive: Mike Yenni talks about texting controversy, family support

ELMWOOD, LA (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni remains a man with steely resolve.

"I had a lot of people to tell me hang in there, stay strong, you know we need good leadership. My administration has done a lot of good things from day one," said Yenni.

In an exclusive interview with FOX 8 News, Yenni talked about the texting controversy that continues to dog him. But he would not talk about anything he said involved legal matters.

In a television commercial, Yenni admitted sending improper text messages to a young man and apologized. Then, before the Parish Council, he described the young man as college-bound.

But the revelation unleashed a torrent of calls for Yenni to resign, including from the entire Jefferson Parish Council and most other top parish elected officials.

And this week, the Jefferson Parish School Board passed a measure barring Yenni from school facilities and all school functions, including athletic events. A violation would amount to trespassing.

"Again, I'm not an attorney so I can't speak to what type of law it holds but I think it's a little outlandish," said Yenni.

Even before the school board vote, Yenni voluntarily said he would stay away from the parish's schools and functions.

"I voluntarily did it over a month ago just to not, just to dispel it, because I knew they were concerned about it, to let them know that I was going to adhere to it…I think it's a shame that they had to stoop to that level. There's a lot more important things that they could be focusing on for the education, for the future of Jefferson Parish," said Yenni.

School Board Member Marion Bonura described Yenni as a "self-admitted pervert," something FOX 8 News asked Yenni about.

Yenni: "Never said that, so I don't know where he's coming from."

Reporter: "Do you think comments like that go too far?"

Yenni: "Sure, I do. I think people see blood in the water and attack when see those things happen…I think some of the comments that were made, especially by Mr. Bonura was totally out of line, somebody who was of course, in the opposite camp during my campaign and somewhat politically motivated."

Bonura told FOX 8 News Wednesday evening that he sticks by his words because Yenni admitted wrongdoing.

Before the interview, Yenni faced other tough words during the regular Parish Council meeting. Some residents again called on him to resign over the controversy.

A Kenner man approached the microphone to read what he said was a letter from Michael Yenni Jr., the son of the late Michael Yenni, who was Jefferson Parish president and died in office after a serious illness.

The current parish president is the nephew of the late Michael Yenni and also the grandson of  former Parish President Joe Yenni, who also died in office.

"The Yenni name was adopted by this name, but not earned. Integrity, commitment and character don't come with a name change. The parish president might have some Yenni blood, but his despicable actions are all his own," Richard Brown read from the letter he clutched at the podium as Yenni looked on.

Before becoming parish president, Yenni did change his last name to his mother's maiden name of Yenni. He has said he wanted to honor his maternal grandparents who played a significant role in his upbringing.

"There's been somewhat of a family feud in my family that shouldn't have been public. It has no place in public, it has no place in council chambers, and again, read by one of my opponents when I was mayor of Kenner, so it doesn't surprise me. And again, how do we even know that that was factually from him?" Yenni said when questioned about the statement read during the council meeting.

Another man read from an article he said was penned by the young man Yenni admitted texting.

"It was exciting, I was 17 at the time and flattered to think a married guy wanted to break vows just to be with me," the man read.

Looking at Yenni, he pointedly asked Yenni a question.

"At this point, can you confirm that this young man is the man in question? At this point, are you willing to acknowledge that this article is about you? A head nod, okay."

Yenni did not answer.

But he did respond to a question about that during the interview with FOX 8 News.

"No, no, another person who I'm friends with his ex-wife, you know, a lot of people think they live in brick homes but they really live in glass homes and its a shame that they would stoop to that level," he said.

And despite what many in parish government as well as in the public think, Mike Yenni said he can effectively do his job as parish president.

"You know, anything that I've done has not affected my oath of office," said Yenni.

A recall drive against Yenni is underway and organizer Bob Evans said it is going well.

Yenni acknowledged voters have a right to sign the petition, but he is steadfast in his decision not to step down.

"The public elected me to this position and I'm going to honor that as long as they want me here, and if I'm recalled that's the will of the people and I'm going to of course abide by the will of the people," he said.

And with another child on the way, Yenni was asked about how he is faring personally.

"Personally, I have the greatest wife in the world, she's very supportive of me and is a very forgiving woman and has certainly reached out and been very steadfast in support of me along with my mother, father,  brother, and sister-in-law, my real family," he said.

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