The longest-serving member of the D.C. Council may face harsh reprimands for recent actions involving his service in the legislature and on the board of the Metro transit agency.
On June 21, the FBI raided the Georgetown home of Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) one day after he stepped down as chairman of the board of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA), or Metro.
Evans, who has been on the council since 1991, stayed close to his house while the agents searched and took materials in boxes to their vehicles. Neither Evans nor his attorney Mark Tuohey have commented on the raid.
Evans stepped down as the District’s representative on the Metro board after strong evidence emerged from a 20-page memo that he committed ethical transgressions such as not disclosing his consulting and personal relationship as a board member and failing to recuse himself on issues before the body that he had personal and professional connections to.
Metro’s ethics committee hired a law firm, Schulte Roth & Zabel, to look into Evans’ actions and the results of the memo reached the public even though it had been marked confidential.
Evans already has gotten the attention of a federal grand jury into whether he used relationships with clients and used his position on the council to solicit business for his legal and consulting work. As a result, the council reprimanded Evans for his using his office for personal gain on March 19 but allowed him to stay on the Metro board and remain chairman of the powerful Committee on Finance & Revenue.
Councilwoman Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) has called for a council investigation of Evans, with fellow Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) going a step further.
“The memo and investigation released via WMATA make it clear that Council member Jack Evans took advantage of the public’s trust for his personal gain,” Allen said. “He also betrayed the council’s trust in appointing him to this role — and has done damage to this body and the District of Columbia. It was the right decision for him to step down from the board.
“When the council voted to reprimand Evans this year, we did so understanding new evidence of misconduct could come to light based on pending investigations,” he said. “With what has been revealed by WMATA’s internal ethics investigation, I believe Evans should be censured and removed from all committees, including as chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, until we have a resolution to any federal investigation.”
Allen pointed out that Evans served on the WMATA board as a council appointee. The Evans matter put Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) into action.
“I share the disappointment of all my colleagues that Council member Jack Evans used his position on the WMATA board to violate WMATA’s code of ethics,” Mendelson said. “He took the right action in stepping down from his position on the board.
Mendelson said he will appoint an ad hoc committee to conduct its own investigation and would remove Evans as chairman of the council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue upon the full Council’s approval.
“It is imperative that public officials maintain high ethical standards,” he said. “Public trust is critical. At the same time, it is delicate and precious. We must now work to regain it.”
Councilman Robert White (D-At Large) agreed with Mendelson.
“These actions, I hope, will begin to repair the damage done to the public trust,” White said.
Another council member, Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), spoke Friday at the Ward 7 Democrats meeting at the Dorothy I. Height Benning Branch of the D.C. Public Library, but didn’t address the Evans matter and declined comment after the meeting.
While Evans’ colleagues want to strip him of the finance and revenue chairmanship, the D.C. Republican Party wants him to leave the council altogether.
“It’s time for Mr. Evans to do the right thing and step aside from his position on the D.C. Council,” said Jose Cunningham, the D.C. GOP chairman. “While he may be one of the few — or only — council members who is remotely pro-business, bad ethics and illegal behaviors are not what we look for in our elected officials.”
In recent months, Evans indicated that he will seek reelection to his Ward 2 seat in 2020. Presently, he will face four opponents and an effort to recall him in his ward.
John Fanning, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 2 who faced Evans in the 2000 election, tweeted Friday: “Due to the controversies surrounding Jack Evans, I fear the interests of Ward 2 residents are going unmet.”
“Stories of how Evans might have misused both his council office and his position on WMATA are disturbing,” Fanning said. “Jack should step down from the council to attend to those concerns.”