D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans violated ethics rules, report says

November 10, 2019

District Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) violated Council ethics rules by repeatedly taking official action on behalf of clients who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a report given to the Council on Nov. 4. The law firm O’Melveny & Myers produced the report. 

Now publicly accessible, the 97-page report detailed 11 instances since 2014 in which Evans allegedly used his office on behalf of current or prospective clients of Squire Patton Boggs and Manatt, Phelps, & Phillips, two law firms where he was previously employed, and his private consulting business, NSE Consulting LLC. 

These clients paid Evans $400,000 over the 5-year period “largely for merely being available,” the report read. 

“He received over $400,000 for doing little or no documented work for consulting clients,” the report continues, “most, if not all, of whom were also ‘prohibited sources’ under the Code of Official Conduct.”

O’Melveny and Myers’ investigation into Evans isn’t his first. His business interests and public actions were the target of a federal investigation which led to FBI agents searching his home in June. However, Evans was not charged with any crime. 

Also this past June, an ethics investigation at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reached similar conclusions and resulted in Evans’s stepping down as chairman of the board of directors.

And finally this past August, the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability fined Evans $20,000 for touting his legislative influence and using his government email in seeking employment at local law firms.

The report concluded that Evans failed to both recognize conflicts of interest and properly disclose his private clients. While D.C. councilmembers earn around $140,000 each year, they are permitted to have outside employment as long as they avoid conflicts of interest. 

Some of the ethical rules violations identified by the report included championing the controversial merger between PEPCO, a public utility company, and Exelon, an energy company, while seeking employment at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, the law firm handling the deal. The report also notes that he used his legislative position to block the mayor’s proposed tax increase on commercial parking lots which would have negatively impacted Forge (a holding company for Colonial Parking, Inc.), a company his private consulting business represented.

On Nov. 5, Evans’ lawyers Abbe Lowell and Mark Tuohey released a 67-page rebuttal, which claimed O’Melveny & Myers’ conclusions “misapply the law, make up new requirements and reflect a total misunderstanding of the permissibility of legislators with outside employment.” 

Lowell and Tuohey maintain that Evans made no wrongdoing. “None of his lapses were intentional; none reflected any corrupt agreement with friends and clients; and none ever compromised Mr. Evans’ position, votes, support or work on long-standing issues for which he has been consistent for almost 30 years,” Lowell and Tuohey wrote.

That same day, the majority of the D.C. Council called on Evans to resign, including Brianne K. Nadeu (D-Ward 1), Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). David Grosso (I-At Large) first called for Evans to resign in July, and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) announced his support for resignation on Nov. 6. 

Several councilmembers expressed their discomfort with the report’s findings.

“The report lays out the definition of pay-to-play. It’s incredibly distressing, it’s incredibly disturbing,” Allen said in an article in the DCistCheh is helping lead the Council’s internal investigation into Evans. “We’re entitled to be disgusted by what we read in the report,” said Cheh in the article. 

And while Council Chairman Democrat Phil Mendelson has not called for Evans’ resignation, he said he found the report “damning” and stated that the two had discussed the possibility of resignation 2 months ago. 

“Mr. Evans has obliterated the public trust,” said Mendelson at a press conference on Nov. 5, “and that would speak as well for the trust from his colleagues.”

Cheh indicated that if Evans does not resign, the rest of the Council would continue with the investigation, including meeting with the firm’s investigators on Nov. 19, and giving Evans an opportunity to defend himself at a later meeting. 

Disciplinary courses of action for the Council would include reprimand, censure, expulsion (with the support of 11 of the 13 councilmembers), and stripping Evans of all his committee assignments—a measure that failed over the summer on a deadlocked vote.

Evans’ fellow councilmembers are not the only D.C. political figures calling for his resignation. D.C. Democratic Party Chair Charles Wilson released a press release on Nov. 6 urging Evans to resign. Evans is the National Commiteeman for the D.C. Democratic Party.

“Though I acknowledge these allegations are not directly related to his role as National Committeeman for the D.C. Democratic Party,” Wilson wrote, “I expect all members of our Party to maintain the highest level of integrity in their activities and leadership positions both within the Party and in the community.”

Evans has also faced calls for resignation from among his six challengers for the June 2020 Democratic primary, his first electoral opposition in more than a decade. Evans has represented Ward 2 since 1991 and is the Council’s longest-serving member. 

Candidate Jordan Grossman, a former staffer in the Obama administration, in particular has been vocal surrounding the investigations into Evans.

“This latest investigation confirms what we have learned over and over again about Jack Evans: he has consistently put his personal financial interests above the needs of Ward 2 residents by offering his public office for sale to private clients,” wrote Grossman’s campaign in an email to the Voice. “This new report adds to the mounting pile of investigations into his shameless corruption that all lead to the same conclusion: Evans is unfit to serve on the DC Council and is an embarrassment to Ward 2. He should resign. It’s time for a clean break from Evans and his corrupt machine.”

D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2A Commissioner, Vice Chairperson and candidate Patrick Kennedy released a statement reiterating his prior calls in June for Evans to resign.

“Since then, the depth of those violations has become undeniable,”the statement read. “The report released today leaves little room for ambiguity.”

Kennedy was also particularly disturbed by Evans’ work on behalf of clients that negatively impacted his ANC, such as the PEPCO-Exelon merger. 

“While I led our entire ANC to advocate against the Pepco-Exelon merger,” read the statement, “the report documents Councilmember Evans advocating for the merger while seeking a position with the law firm handling the matter.”

Yet despite the chorus of voices calling for his resignation, Evans has denied acting inappropriately and has made it clear he does not intend to resign. 

“I’m not going to resign, not today, not tomorrow,” Evans said on Nov. 6 to the Washington Post.

Jason Cuomo
Jason Cuomo is a sophomore in the college studying history and government. In his free time he's probably either obsessively reading FiveThirtyEight or making oddly specific playlists.

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