“I want to tell my side of my story,” Council member Jack Evans told the District Council this week, as he faced more challenges to his reputation, his position as chairman of the Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue and even his remaining on the Council through the end of his current term in 2020.
Effective today, Thursday, June 27, Evans voluntarily resigned from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board after a controversy over the board’s ethics investigation of him heated up. Paul Smedberg of Virginia was elected as chairman by that board, which also blocked Evans ally Corbett Price from serving as vice chairman.
In addition, yesterday evening, June 26, Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kishan Putta filed papers to run for Evan’s Ward 2 Council seat, which Evans, the longest service Council member in D.C. history, has held for 28 years. Putta is the first resident of the Georgetown-Burleith area to announce a run against Evans.
Evans has had a bad couple of weeks after it was revealed that the Metro ethics committee, investigating charges that Evans had used his position as chair to help some of his consulting firm’s clients, had found a credible conflict of interest with one, a parking company. Evans had claimed that the Metro board committee’s investigators had found no ethics violations.
On Friday morning, June 21, the FBI raided Evans’s P Street home and removed boxes of documents and other material. On Tuesday, June 25, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced that the Council would hire an “unbiased” law firm to investigate charges of influence peddling and conflicts of interest by Evans through his consulting and law firms.
Mendelson also said he was warranted to have the Council vote to remove Evans as chair (but not as a member) of the finance committee at the Council’s July 9 meeting.
Some community activists have been circulating a petition for months to have Evans removed from the Council. But no sitting Council member has backed a recall petition; neither has Mayor Muriel Bowser, who expressed sadness and even some feelings of betrayal over the situation.
At a June 26 breakfast meeting of the Council, Evans read a statement recognizing his dilemma but posing a defense. “Events of the last week, so to speak, have been very inflammatory,” he said. “When the actual facts are heard by everyone, I believe that will change everyone’s mind.”
Evans claimed not to have seen the Metro committee’s report because it was drafted 13 days after the investigation was closed and after he announced that no violations had been found. Evans called his proposed removal on July 9 as chair of the finance committee “premature.”
“My running for the Ward 2 seat is not because I am anti-Jack,” Putta told The Georgetowner. “I always respected his long experience in government. But I am for openness and transparency and now feel he can’t be trusted.”
Putta was a Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from 2012 to 2014. He was elected to the Georgetown-Burleith ANC, ANC 2E, in 2018, representing his neighborhood in Burleith. Formerly a District health care services coordinator, he is currently outreach director for East Rock Creek Village, which provides services to seniors seeking to remain in their homes. He was also recently appointed chair of the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus of the D.C. Democratic Party.
“Restoring trust” is one of the primary tasks that Putta sees himself as having to accomplish, should he become the next Ward 2 Council member. “If I am elected, I will not have another job,” he told The Georgetowner in an exclusive interview on June 26. “After all, D.C. Council members make $140,000 a year in salary, the second highest in the country. It’s enough.”
Putta said he would hold town hall meetings that constituents could attend or watch and interact with online, monthly or more frequently, adding: “I will be transparent and open to all questions.”
“I believe in term limits and would limit myself to two terms in office if given the chance,” Putta said, also stating that he would not maintain or control any exclusive constituent fund.