More than 20 local politicians have requested information from D.C. councilmembers on their investigation into Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans’ business dealings.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Erin Palmer, who represents Takoma and Brightwood, sent a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson Wednesday asking him to release details about the council’s ad hoc committee formed last week to investigate Evans. The requests follow backlash against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors for its handling of Metro’s ethics inquiry into Evans, a former Metro board chair.
“Given your previous reluctance to investigate Councilmember Evans’ known misconduct, we are seeking assurances as to the efforts of this ad hoc committee,” the letter states.
Commissioners signed on the letter are demanding that councilmembers release the names of committee members, the scope and anticipated timeline of the investigation, the cost of the inquiry and the council’s plan to publish the investigation’s findings, according to the letter.
Mendelson told reporters the council will hire a law firm to investigate Evans and likely make the firm’s findings public, The Washington Post reported last week. Mendelson earlier announced that he would remove Evans from his position as chair of the council’s committee on finance and revenue, The Post reported.
Evans did not return a request for comment.
Palmer, the commissioner who authored the letter, said the number of signatures the letter garnered should indicate to the council how important the investigation is for neighborhood leaders. She added that she is unsure whether councilmembers will respond to the letter because they have not been responsive to ANC inquiries in the past.
“I actually am not certain that they will respond at all,” Palmer said. “We haven’t gotten a whole lot of responsiveness generally speaking, but it does create a public record of important questions and then if there are issues down the line.”
Palmer said in a tweet Monday that Mendelson told her the council had not been briefed on the letter the commissioners sent and had not defined the scope of the investigation. Mendelson also told her the council expected to finish its investigation before the end of its summer recess, she wrote in a tweet.
James Harnett, a commissioner representing Foggy Bottom and rising senior, said he hopes the letter will raise awareness among his constituents about ethical issues surrounding Evans.
“I want to make sure that while we’re having this conversation, it’s done in an educated way with all of the facts,” Harnett said. “And this letter to Chairman Mendelson hopes to make sure that while that investigation is conducted, acts can be shared with the public in a transparent way.”
Patrick Kennedy, a Foggy Bottom commissioner and candidate for the Ward 2 council seat, said that given the results of WMATA’s investigation into Evans, D.C. residents have lost faith in D.C. politicians’ capacity to rectify their own conduct.
“We have a constant fight in this city for self-determination and statehood, and the argument that we make pretty consistently is that we should be left to run our own affairs, and it’s pretty embarrassing when we can’t be trusted to police ourselves because that undermines that argument,” he said.
Nine ANC commissioners, including Kennedy, sent a letter to WMATA officials last month demanding information on their investigation into Evans. Metro officials released the information earlier this month, revealing that the Metro board’s ethics committee found that Evans violated the ethics code when he failed to disclose his consulting agreement with Colonial Parking.
Denise Krepp, a commissioner representing southeast Capitol Hill, said she and other commissioners called on the council to investigate Evans in March but did not receive a response. She added that commissioners may have to ask the council to release information about the ad hoc committee investigating Evans multiple times before councilmembers make facts public.
“We’ve got a group of upset people that are saying we want accountability and we’re not backing down,” she said. “I think it’s gonna be a summer of letters and it’s going to be a summer of demanding accountability.”
Tyrell Holcomb, a commissioner representing Central Northeast in Ward 7, said he signed the letter because he wants answers to the questions many of his constituents have asked about Evans’ business dealings. He added that his biggest concern about the Evans situation is the impact the scandal will have on the District’s reputation.
“It’s about the embarrassment – how do we ensure this level of embarrassment does not come to our city and our council ever again? – and I think that’s really what our concern is,” Holcomb said.
Jared Gans contributed reporting.