The growing controversy surrounding Democrat Jack Evans, the longest serving member of the District of Columbia Council, came to a kind of defining crossroads on Tuesday, March 19.
That’s when Evans, who has served as Council member from Ward 2 (which includes Georgetown) for the past 28 years, was publicly, firmly and directly reprimanded by a unanimous vote of the Council.
Evans was reprimanded for using his official email account and office to solicit business for clients of a consulting firm which he has since closed. He is also the subject of a federal investigation into his business dealings and a possible recall election.
The Council, led by Chairman Phil Mendelson, did not strip Evans of his chairmanship of the high-profile and influential Finance and Revenue Committee.
Quoted in various publications and on news reports, Mendelson noted the seriousness of a reprimand of this sort in a public session. He said: “What is before us is discipline and anyone who might suggest that this is not painful should put themselves in Mr. Evans’s shoes … This is a public meeting. It is a specially called meeting. There is one item of business. I have repeatedly invoked Jack Evans’s name in condemnation of his conduct … We do this to make clear to the public that Mr. Evans’s actions do not reflect the Council’s values.”
For his part, a contrite Evans told members of the Council that “I brought embarrassment to this Council, to myself and my family. Going forward, I will work tirelessly to restore the trust of my constituents, of my colleagues here on the Council and of the residents of the District of Columbia.”
The resolution read: “A councilmember must perform the duties of the office to which he or she is elected in a manner that maintains the confidence of the public and must take no action that violates or threatens the public trust.”
Evans has spoken only once in public on the matter, and did not comment after the meeting.
Five Council members wanted the Council to strip Evans of his chairmanship. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is considered an Evans ally, offered that he should keep his chairmanship. She, and the Council, had received federal subpoenas on matters regarding Evans and his clients. And the Metro board, of which Evans is chairman, has launched an investigation.
There is obviously more to come and to be learned, as the process of investigation and information gathering continues. A reprimand is not a Council precedent; the late longtime mayor and Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry and Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham were both reprimanded.