- The Washington Times
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

House Republicans are citing D.C. Council member Jack Evans‘ Metro Board ethics scandal as a cautionary tale ahead of next week’s preliminary hearing on statehood for the District.

“Under the Democrats’ bill, the current D.C. government would be elevated to governor, members of the state legislature, etc.,” a spokesman for House Republicans said Tuesday.

“If Congress is to provide for the creation of a new state, it should at least make sure that its citizens won’t labor under the same corrupt government, which is more interested in lining its own pockets than serving its people.”

But D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, scoffed at the notion that the District must be free of scandal in order to become the 51st state.

“If misconduct by a public official were a condition for statehood, states would never have been added to the Union,” Ms. Norton said in a written response. “There is no justification for denying 700,000 taxpaying American citizens equality in their own government.”

A longtime advocate for D.C. statehood, Ms. Norton was instrumental in persuading the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold a hearing on the issue on Sept. 19.

On Tuesday, two of the committee’s top Republicans sent a letter to the Democratic leaders urging an interview with officials involved in the Metro Board’s ethics probe of Mr. Evans.

“The information produced to the committee to date suggests that Evans, a District of Columbia (DC) Council member, attempted to exploit his position on the [Metro] Board for his personal financial benefit,” Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, ranking member of the government operations subcommittee, said in their letter.

“The committee must conduct additional fact finding as it relates to several upcoming legislative and oversight matters,” they said in the letter to Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, chairman of the government operations subcommittee.

Mr. Jordan and Mr. Meadows said the Oversight Committee should interview Mr. Evans, former Metro Board Vice Chairman Clarence Crawford, Metro Assistant General Manager Lynn Bowersox, Metro Board Secretary Jennifer Ellison and Metro General Counsel Patricia Lee.

Mr. Cummings did not respond to a request for comment, but Mr. Connolly expressed concern about the Evans matter.

“The documents provided to our Committee confirm my serious concerns about Mr. Evans‘ unethical behavior as Chairman of the [Metro] Board,” Mr. Connolly said in a written response. “We can’t turn a blind eye to this type of self-dealing and threats. This, as well as Metro safety improvements, will be one of the many issues we will examine in our October hearing.”

Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, in June resigned as chairman and as a D.C. representative on the Metro Board following an ethics probe report that said he had misused his office to attract new clients and benefit current clients of his consulting firm.

In addition, the D.C. Council in July stripped Mr. Evans of his chairmanship of the Finance and Revenue Committee, after having reprimanded him for his ethical lapses.

Mr. Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker, is being investigated by a law firm hired by the council, as well as by the federal government. He has denied any illegal activity.

He declined to comment Tuesday.

Metro Board Chairman Paul C. Smedberg said in a written response: “We have provided all document and information requested by the Committee to date. Chairman Connolly and the Committee have extended an invitation for me to testify, which I have accepted. I look forward to sharing with the Committee the ethics improvements that, as the Board’s new Chair, I am advancing.”

The the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser did not respond to requests for comment.

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