D.C. Council members Trayon White (Ward 8), Elissa Silverman (At Large) and David Grosso (At Large) deliberate on action that fellow Council member Jack Evans has taken within the past five years. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
D.C. Council members Trayon White (Ward 8), Elissa Silverman (At Large) and David Grosso (At Large) deliberate on action that fellow Council member Jack Evans has taken within the past five years. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

For months, D.C. Council member Jack Evans avoided questions — from constituents and colleagues alike — about what had been documented as his abuse of political power for financial gain. He recently went as far as declining to appear before the ad hoc committee determining his fate as an elected official.

On Tuesday afternoon, that committee, comprised of Evans’ 12 council colleagues, recommended that he no longer serve the residents of Ward 2. In less than two hours, and without any input from the embattled council member, they concluded that a punishment of that magnitude would best serve the public interest.

“We became co-conspirators without knowing that [Evans] was getting paid by clients who benefitted from his actions. These companies hired Jack Evans to be their D.C. government fixer,” said D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At large) as she weighed in on the findings of an investigation conducted by law firm O’Melveny & Myers.

A report that two attorneys from O’Melveny & Myers presented to the D.C. Council last month cited more than a dozen ethics violations committed by Evans within the last five years, including failing to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in outside income and recuse himself from votes affecting entities compensating him.

Evans, via his attorneys, has denied any knowledge of rule-breaking.

While the ad-hoc hearing had been intended to decide whether to continue the investigation into Evans’ business dealings, council members who spoke early on agreed that information collected, from the law firm and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), on which Evans served as a board member, would suffice.

Silverman told her colleagues that said such evidence confirmed Evans’ ability to rally support among other council members for legislation that lined his pockets and that of his business partners.

“Where’s the ethics violation in making all of us a part of this? she asked. “The explanation that [Evans] misunderstood doesn’t pass the smell test. We have to look at what happened and if we don’t expel Council member Evans for this, we would be showing residents this is how business is done in the Wilson Building.”

Evans, the D.C. Council’s longest-ever serving council member, has long caught the attention of law enforcement for his relationships with corporations and lobbying firms, including Colonial Parking, Wilco Construction and Exelon Corporation. In June, the FBI raided Evans’ home as part of a grand jury investigation that launched more than a year ago. A local activist also launched a recall campaign, while a handful of people have announced their candidacy for the Ward 2 council seat.

Tuesday afternoon’s unanimous committee vote comes months after the D.C. Council reprimanded Evans for using official email and staff to solicit law firms that lobby the District. Council members later removed Evans as head of the Finance and Revenue committee after a WMATA ethics committee report confirmed Evans violated rules as a board member.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), initially hesitant to take Evans out of council committee leadership, relieved him of his oversight duties for Events DC and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

While all council members recommended expulsion on Tuesday, Mendelson didn’t immediately submit comment, nor did Council member Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4). In their remarks, Council members Robert White (D- At large) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) recounted encounters with residents pressing hard for accountability. Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) also admonished Evans for refusing to answer questions before the D.C. Council under oath.

The ad-hoc committee, chaired by Cheh, will compile a report of Tuesday’s meeting in preparation for another convening scheduled for the morning of Dec. 10. From that point on, the Committee of the Whole, chaired by Mendelson, would bring Evans’ expulsion up for a vote. Whether the final vote would take place before the end of the calendar year remains to be determined, but unlikely some council members said.

With Evans’ expulsion increasingly imminent, some residents, like Dia King, said focus must shift to the system as a whole and the repeal of legislation passed under circumstances similar to what Evans facilitated.

King, along with other members of DC for Democracy, occupied the front-row seats of the ad-hoc committee hearing in shirts, each bearing letters that spelled “Sack Jack” when combined.

“A lot of things he and others did for themselves and not the public trust,” said King, a valet who expressed dismay at the council’s repeal of Initiative 77, voter-approved legislation that would’ve raised the minimum wage for tipped workers.

“We have to make all the members of the D.C. Council feel a certain way if we want to get things done,” King continued. “This move shows they moved in the right direction.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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