For a considerable time now, things have been quiet in the ongoing investigations involving Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, the District’s longest serving lawmaker, who had also served on the Washington Metro board until this summer.
Evans has been the subject of a federal probe, an investigation by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and a probe by a Washington law firm, at the behest of the District Council.
Nothing much had happened since Evans declined to seek the WMATA chairmanship and left the board. He was fined $20,000 by the city’s ethics agency for using government resources and touting his influence as an elected official while soliciting employment from local law firms.
Washington was preoccupied by other matters in recent weeks—the impeachment process, for one, as well as the recent sports spectacle which led to a World Series championship for the Washington Nationals.
But nothing lasts forever.
In the space of three days, beginning Tuesday Nov. 5, a not so confidential report of an investigation was released by the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers and made public. The report dealt with that intersection where Evans’s private business and businesses converged with his public and legislative activities as a senior member of the Council — and one of its most influential members. That convergence was helped along by the fact that District Council members are allowed to have second jobs in the private sectors, a law that the Council, with the support of Mayor Muriel Bowser, is now busy attempting to repeal and short circuit.
The headline in the Metro pages of the Washington Post read: “Evans used office to aid clients, probe finds,” with a subtitle of “D.C. member disputes report, says he acted in public’s interest.”
When the scandal initially erupted this year, there were meetings and threats of Council action, even as Evans denied repeatedly that he had done anything wrong, saying that he broke no laws in his dealings representing or working with a signage company and a parking lot company vis-à-vis his Council role.
Ordered up by the Council, the O’Melveny & Myers report was highly detailed, according to the Washington Post and other media sources. It is said to include allegations that Evans was paid thousands of dollars by private clients for services that constituted conflicts of interest.
Evans, who had his own consulting firm, previously worked for a prominent Washington law firm.
By Wednesday, things had gotten worse. A majority of Council members indicated that they wanted Evans to resign. That group included Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large). Also calling for his resignation were David Grosso (I-At Large), the Council member who was the first to call for Evans to step down, earlier this year, and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who heads the Council’s internal investigation into Evans and his activities.
According to news reports at that time, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) had not yet joined the chorus calling for resignation.
Then, things had taken a further turn for the worse for Evans. The mayor, who had been a steady Evans supporter over the years, and had not delivered any judgment about him previously, said on Wednesday that she found the news on Evans “troubling.”
Attorneys for Evans replied to the report with a lengthy report of their own, which included the statement that the report’s conclusions of rule violations are “simply wrong, misapply the law, make up new requirements and reflect a total misunderstanding of the permissibility of legislators with outside employment.”
On late Thursday afternoon, Ward 7 Council member Vincent C. Gray issued the following statement: “I have profound concerns about the conduct of Council member Evans, following the release of the O’Melveny & Myers LLP report. I encourage Council member Evans to consider what is best for the residents of Ward 2, his family and himself.
“At present, nine of my colleagues have called for Council member Evans to resign from the Council. However, I will not be calling for Council member Evans’ resignation at this time. I firmly believe in due process and can appreciate better than most what it feels like to not be afforded that.”