- The Washington Times
Tuesday, December 3, 2019

All 12 of lawmaker Jack Evans’ colleagues voted Tuesday to recommend his expulsion from the D.C. Council, making him the first city legislator to face such punishment in the District’s history under home rule.

The unanimous vote for expulsion is another milestone — or millstone — in the fall of the District’s longest-serving lawmaker, who for months has battled charges of ethics violations that preceded his departure from the Metro Board of Directors, his removal from the Finance and Budget Committee, and a recall effort for his Ward 2 council seat.

“The only person in this city that doesn’t know that Mr. Evans must resign is Mr. Evans,” council member Robert White, at-large Democrat, said during Tuesday’s ad hoc committee meeting. “If he cannot bring himself to resign, then we must vote to expel him.”

Under the council’s procedures, Mr. Evans could be removed from office as early as January.

Mr. Evans, 66, did not respond to requests for comment, and his office was closed after the ad hoc committee meeting ended.

He declined an opportunity to tell the committee his side of side of the story on Tuesday, saying in a letter last week to committee Chair Mary Cheh that his testimony would be redundant to the information he has given to the law firm hired by the council to investigate him.

The ad hoc committee consists of the entire 13-member council except Mr. Evans. Tasked with reviewing the ethics probe of the Ward 2 Democrat, the panel voted Tuesday not to pursue further investigation and to recommend his expulsion to the full council.

At the committee’s next meeting on Dec. 10, the lawmakers will vote on the committee’s final report, which will include the recommendation to expel Mr. Evans and statements from the members.

The council’s code of conduct requires a hearing to give Mr. Evans another opportunity to make his case before the full council votes on expulsion.

“I expect that the full Council will receive the Ad Hoc Committee’s report on December 17th, will set a hearing for the first week in January, and will vote on expulsion two weeks later,” council Chairman Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said in a written statement.

At an ad hoc meeting last month, attorneys from O’Melveny & Myers defended the findings of their months-long investigation of Mr. Evans. Their 97-page report said that over a five-year period Mr. Evans had violated the conflict of interest provision of the code of conduct in 11 cases by using his position on the council to take action that benefitted clients of his consulting firm or the law firm where he worked.

The investigation also found that he had failed to disclose his consulting clients and received almost $400,000 from his clients for essentially no work other than being available to them.

Mr. Evans’ lawyers submitted a 67-page rebuttal insisting his innocence, saying he did not violate the conflict of interest provision because his positions on legislation were pre-established, coincided with the public’s interest and were independent of his clients’ interests.

An investigation by Metro earlier this year found ethical lapses by Mr. Evans, who did not seek reelection as chairman of the transit agency’s board and was not reappointed to the board after the ethics probe was publicized.

Before its summer recess, the council stripped Mr. Evans of his longtime leadership of the Finance and Budget Committee and divided its duties among other committees.

The embattled lawmaker also faces a federal investigation of his activities.

Mr. Evans is the first council member to face expulsion in the District’s 46-year history of home rule, as other lawmakers have resigned or failed to be reelected after ethical and criminal charges were levied against them.

Former council member Michael A. Brown lost his 2012 reelection bid to current member David Grosso, at-large independent. Mr. Brown pleaded guilty in 2013 to a federal charge of public corruption for taking thousands of dollars in cash stashed in duffel bags and coffee mugs while in office.

Former council chairman Kwame R. Brown resigned and pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2012. Former council member Harry Thomas Jr. resigned and pleaded guilty in 2012 to stealing $350,000 from youth sports programs.

On Tuesday, several council members said that they and the public no longer trust Mr. Evans, that the ethic investigative process has been painful and difficult, and that if his actions don’t require expulsion, they don’t know what would.

The public area of the meeting room was filled with about 20 residents, some of whom wore T-shirts that spelled out “SACK JACK.” At the end of the meeting, many went up to council members and thanked them for finally taking action.

“Where is the ethics violation in making us all a part of this?” said council member Elissa Silverman, at-large independent. “Essentially this business scheme funneled money to a colleague of ours. In exchange, he was their fixer, sharing information about us and, in the end, using us for their financial benefit, for their gain.”

Council member Trayon White, Ward 8 Democrat, said his constituents typically don’t engage with what’s going on downtown and in CIty Hall, but over the last few months residents have been asking him, “What are you all going to do about Jack?”

Mr. Mendelson, the council chairman, said that he did not expect Tuesday’s vote for expulsion and that he wants the council to consider what the vote means because it sets a precedent.

“I am not expressing any second thoughts or misgivings about the vote, but I think we have to be very careful in how we distinguish why we would want to expel here from other situations that we don’t know about where there would be allegations of conflicts of interest,” Mr. Mendelson said.

Meanwhile, Ward 2 residents are taking matters into their own hands to remove Mr. Evans from office via a recall vote, which could be unnecessary if the council expels him first.

Mr. Evans has formally challenged the validity of more than 2,000 of the 5,600 recall petition signatures that activist Adam Eidinger submitted to the Board of Elections. If his challenge holds, the recall effort would fail to meet the 4,949-signature threshold —10% of registered voters in Ward 2 — to trigger a recall vote.

Still, Mr. Evans, who was first elected to the council in 1991, also faces at least five challengers for the Democratic primary for his Ward 2 seat.

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