Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans appeared in the pages of the Washington Post early in March. And the coverage wasn’t flattering.
On March 1, the Post reported that it had obtained “the first public confirmation that the city’s longest-serving council member has been under the scrutiny of federal law enforcement officials.” That confirmation, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, was a copy of a grand jury subpoena issued in late September of 2018 for documents relating to a possible conflict of interest and ethics violation in 2016.
As previously reported in the Washington media (including The Georgetowner), the conflict began in July of 2016 after Evans created an advisory firm called NSE Consulting to offer his knowledge and expertise to help others navigate the complicated District bureaucracy.
Three weeks later, Evans’s new company received checks totaling $50,000 from Donald E. MacCord, the president of Digi Outdoor, which had launched a multimillion-dollar effort to install digital signs across the District.
Evans has claimed publicly that the checks were sent as a retainer fee for future services. He can document that he returned the checks within days of receipt. He feared, he said, that they might be seen as a conflict of interest, since he was involved at the time in a building code dispute between Digi Outdoor and the city.
Two months later, Evans received 200,000 shares in Digi Outdoor stock, which he also claimed he returned immediately. However, a month after that, Evans asked the Council chairman to place on the next agenda emergency legislation that would have given Digi Outdoor an advantage over its competitors. Evans withdrew the proposal before it was voted on — supposedly because there was insufficient support for it to pass.
Evans has denied all accusations of illegality, but, early in 2018, the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability opened an investigation. The inquiry was suspended midyear “because of an ongoing law enforcement investigation.” Now the subpoena for documents by federal authorities has come to light.
On March 2, the Post reported that Evans also actively pitched lobbyists and business firms to hire him to “use my knowledge of local government to strategize with someone looking to do business locally” and for the purpose of “cross-marketing my relationships and influence.”
It is not illegal in the District for an elected official to work in the private sector. D.C. ethics rules require that clients be identified only if they have a contract with the District or stand to benefit from pending legislation.
Any future legal action will depend on the grand jury.