Q&A Cafe: Jack Evans Made One Thing Perfectly Clear

The monthly Q&A Cafe lunch program at the George Town Club is produced and directed by, and features, longtime CBS News producer Carol Joynt, who interviews top newsmakers and those-in-the-know in a lively conversation-style session where she skillfully delves into her guests’ beliefs and motivations, while the audience of 40 or so devotees eat a savory lunch and learn a lot.

On April 4, the Q&A between Joynt and Jack Evans — who until 2020 was Washington, D.C.’s and Ward 2’s longest serving  Council member (30 years), Democratic party leader and dad who raised his now college-graduate triplets as a widower since they were four years old in his P Street home just steps from the club — was only different in its particularly open directness between the two long-time acquaintances and public personalities.

The discussion started out with Joynt’s more-than-usual provocative opening question as the two faced each other on tall chairs across a table fronted by a TV camera and holding mics: “So, what happened Jack?” she asked after explaining in her introduction that in 2019 Jack had been forced to resign his seat by the D.C. Council.

Evans answered Joynt’s first question by saying: “I made a mistake, Carol. No question about it. I apologize for it and acknowledge it. My mistake was forming my own consultant company while I was still in office that gave the perception of a conflict of interest.”

A D.C. probe and a federal investigation were carried out in 2019 (a computer was taken from Evans’s Georgetown home by government agents in a widely photographed raid). On April 14, 2022, the Washington Post reported that the investigations were concluded and no action was taken against him.

“That’s it,” Evans said..

“But you must have known,” Joynt probed.

“I thought I was being careful,” Evans replied. “When I took office in 1991, almost all the Council members continued to work as lawyers and such in their professions. No one said anything. I practiced law. That’s who I was, what I did to make a living.”

In 1991, D.C. was a financial, infrastructure and crime-ridden wreck, both Evans and Joynt recalled.

“But by the time I left office, D.C. had been given a triple A bond rating,” Evans said with pride. D.C. became a successful city with a well-working city government, repaired infrastructure, full reserves, growing population and prosperity and a low crime rate.

Now, Evans says he fears things have gotten worse. The big mistake made by D.C. government the past two years is going on a spending spree with $1.2 billion (that’s with a “B”) in federal pandemic grant money.

“They spent it all on recurring costs and new programs,” Evans said. “You can only do that if you have continuing revenue to keep them going.”

Joynt asked Evans about the hurt of having colleagues turn against him — he had seen no need for the council to ask him unanimously to resign for his mistake — and what hurt it had caused his children. The long-time pol laughed.

“Politics is cut-throat at times,” he said. “If you don’t like that, don’t get involved. It’s like what the Godfather said: ‘This is the business you have chosen.’ And that’s true for me. I love it. I love politics … there are so many things to learn and good things to do and people to learn from — like Mayor Marion Barry, who was a great mayor even when re-elected after being convicted of a federal crime and spending time in jail  Mayor Bowser also has been fabulous to watch as she evolved into a confident, very good, mayor. I and my kids have experienced far more pain from other things in our lives than politics — like when my wife and their mother died.”

As Evans spoke more about politics and the city, he became animated and enthusiastic. “I am an optimist and know things will get better again … including we’ll finally get our football team back in RFK stadium.”

As he talked, he made one thing perfectly clear: Jack Evans knows and loves local politics.

Will Evans run for his old seat as Ward 2 Council member? That was the obvious question in the air, though he never answered it nor mentioned the current Ward 2 Council member, Brooke Pinto.

“There are a lot of Jack haters out there” Evans told the Q&A attendees.

Two guests at one table agreed. They enumerated five reasons why some disliked him: perception of corruption, age, had his time for 30 years, too business oriented and not “woke” enough. For others at the same table, all five were also reasons they would vote for him. 

When Joynt was asked what she thought about Evans running, she chuckled: “Just try to stop him!”

“In August 2019, the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) found that there was ‘substantial evidence’ that Evans violated rules restricting officials from using their offices for private gains,” according to the Wikipedia entry on Evans. “The ethics board fined him $20,000. At the conclusion of the investigation he received an additional fine in May 2020 for $35,000 for violating the council’s code of conduct regarding conflicts of interest. In 2022, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Attorney General said that Evans had paid off the $55,000 he owed in fines ahead of schedule. The U.S. Attorney’s office announced later that year that the federal investigation had concluded with no criminal charges.”

This interview will air on cable Channel 16.


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