An ad hoc committee of the D.C. Council on Tuesday questioned the lawyers who investigated and reported on how council member Jack Evans‘ private consulting firm influenced his decisions as a public official.
Steve Bunnell and David Leviss, both of the O’Melveny & Myers law firm, defended their 97-page investigative report, which the council made public about two weeks ago. It found that Mr. Evans had violated the conflict of interest provision of the council code of conduct at least 11 times, failed to disclose his consulting clients and received almost $400,000 from his clients for essentially no work other than being available.
In a 67-page rebuttal, Mr. Evans‘ legal team asserted that he is innocent, saying he did not violate conflict of interest provision because his positions on legislation were preestablished, coincided with the public’s interest and were independent of his clients’ interests.
The investigative attorneys said the Mr. Evans‘ rebuttal misinterprets the standard for conflict of interest, saying the relevant element is whether he took official action as a council member that benefited his clients, not whether he changed his positions for their benefit.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are willfully violating the conflict of interest provision or whether you don’t pay attention and violate it,” Mr. Bunnell said, answering council members’ questions.
In his rebuttal, Mr. Evans also secured the opinion of Georgetown University ethics professor Michael Frisch, who defended the Ward 2 Democrat’s actions.
But the O’Melveny & Myers attorneys said Mr. Frisch’s ethical defense focused only on judicial ethics and didn’t address governmental ethics or the council’s code of conduct.
Meanwhile, the majority of the 13-member council has called for Mr. Evans‘ resignation — Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Brandon Todd (Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), Charles Allen (Ward 6), Trayon White (Ward 8), David Grosso (at-large), Elissa Silverman (at-large) and Robert White (at-large).
The ad hoc, chaired by Ms. Cheh, consists of all the council members except Mr. Evans.
Council member Anita Bonds (at-large) said on radio program that she has spoken privately with Mr. Evans about resigning, and council Chairman Phil Mendelson also has talked privately with the embattled lawmaker about resigning, according to news reports.
A new Washington Post poll found that 64% of D.C. residents say Mr. Evans should resign and that he has a favorability rating of about 4% among residents.
As the council is working through its investigation, Ward 2 residents are resorting to a recall effort to remove the city’s longest-serving lawmaker.
Adam Eidinger, an activist leading the recall effort, tweeted that he had submitted nearly 5,600 signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections for verification.
The board has 30 days to certify that Mr. Eidinger turned in at least 4,949 valid signatures, which is 10% of registered voters in Ward 2. If the board certifies enough signatures, it will have 114 days to schedule a recall election allowing voters to remove Mr. Evans from office.
Mr. Evans declined to comment Tuesday.
On Dec. 3, the ad hoc committee will meet to question Mr. Evans.
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