Three members of the District of Columbia Council have called for the creation of a special committee to investigate recent allegations of ethics violations made against fellow councillor Jack Evans.
“Holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards”
In a letter dated March 4th, David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau, and Elissa Silverman asked Council Chair Phil Mendelson to investigate the various allegations that have been swirling around Jack Evans for much of the past year.
“Investigating a colleague is not something we take lightly,” the letter states. “However, holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards reinforces that the Council of the District of Columbia is dedicated to the accountability of our elected officials.” (full text available here)
Although Mendelson declined to endorse the creation of an investigative committee at a council meeting yesterday, he did introduce a resolution to formally reprimand Evans.
“There is no question whether Mr. Evans’ emails violated the Council’s Code of Conduct, and therefore waiting for an investigation would be an unnecessary delay. I want to send a
message now,” he said in a written statement.
Allegations against Jack Evans
Evans, a Democrat who has represented Ward 2 on the council since 1991, has been facing allegations of ethics violations for much of the last year.
A May 2018 Washington Post report told how a digital sign company, Digi Outdoor Media, paid a consulting firm owned by Evans $50,000 in August 2016. Evans had established the consulting firm the month before receiving the payment. Several months after the payment, Evans circulated a bill that would have helped Digi Outdoor Media dispute sign regulations with the DC government.
Evans claims to have returned the $50,000, but later received 200,000 shares in Digi Outdoor Media (which he also claims to have returned).
On Thursday last week, the Post published a September federal grand jury subpoena for documents related to the legislation proposed by Evans.
On Saturday, reporting on separate alleged ethics violations, the Washington Post published emails that show Evans repeatedly solicited business from local law firms, claiming he could engage in “cross-marketing my relationships and influence” to help firm clients.
On Monday, the Washington City Paper reported that federal grand jury subpoenas have been issued to “three or four” clients of Evans’ consulting firm.
Jack Evans apoligizes to colleagues and constituents
Speaking outside yesterday’s Council meeting, Evans issued a brief apology to the Council and to his Ward 2 constituents.
Addressing a group of reporters in a hallway, he said, “I’d just like to say in retrospect I would have done a lot of things differently. I certainly made some major mistakes, and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to my constituents and the residents of the District of Columbia and to my colleagues, so that’s all I have to say.”
Despite the mounting accusations, no prominent member of the DC political establishment has yet called for Evans to resign.
The DC Republican Party, not currently represented on the Council, stopped short of demanding Evans step down. In a press release issued yesterday, DC GOP chair José Cunningham said, “DC Councilmembers should not be enriching themselves on the DC taxpayers dime. As a Ward 2 resident and Chairman of the DC Republican Party, I call upon the DC Council to convene a special committee to investigate the wrongdoings of Mr. Evans.”
The Washington City Paper contacted forty members of Ward 2’s six Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (the unit of government below Ward in DC). Only four commissioners replied, and only one – James Harnett, of ANC 2A – said Evans should go.
“We need to have somebody whose ethical credentials and leadership on issues is clear,” he told the City Paper.
Harnett was also unimpressed by Evans’ attempt to edit his Wikipedia entry in the wake of the recent controversies.
“That’s certainly not a good way to communicate with his constituents,” he added.