Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans urged his colleagues at a meeting Tuesday not to consider stripping him of his D.C. Council committee chairmanship until an internal investigation is complete.
Evans pressed councilmembers to complete a probe into his potential code of conduct violations before voting to remove him from his position as chair of the council’s committee on finance and revenue in a scheduled vote on July 9. The council’s investigation was sparked by a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority report finding that Evans broke ethics codes relating to conflicts of interest while serving as chair of the WMATA’s Board of Directors.
“I would also ask my constituents, my colleagues and the people of Washington, D.C. to put all of this in proper perspective,” Evans said at the meeting. “For 28 years, I have served this city and have worked as hard as a person could to make things better.”
Evans announced his resignation from the Metro board late last month following an ethics probe that found Evans used his board chairmanship for personal financial gain. A leaked memo from the law firm investigating him on behalf of WMATA – which Evans called “terribly unfair” and “misleading” – revealed that Evans did not properly disclose his consulting agreement with the company Colonial Parking, leading to a conflict of interest.
Evans said he never gave the company an advantage because it was not seeking contracts with WMATA at the same time he dealt with the business.
“I decided to give up my roles at WMATA not because I thought the report was fair or complete – I strongly do not – but in order to demonstrate that I took the issues raised seriously,” he said.
Evans added that he could have “acted better” and disclosed his consulting agreement.
“I am not here to say that I did not deserve some of the criticism that has been levied at me – I certainly do,” he said.
Days after WMATA’s report was released, federal agents searched Evans’ home and confiscated boxes that Evans said were “almost entirely empty.” Agents took his iPhone, iPad, his kids’ computer, Evans’ copy of the WMATA memo and a general counsel document, Evans said.
At the meeting, which Evans requested to respond to his colleague’s concerns, councilmembers reiterated their call to remove Evans from his committee position despite Evans’ claims that their push is premature.
“I do think it’s important that we safeguard the public trust and the integrity of the Council,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said. “And it’s clear at this point, given all of the facts and all that has happened, and what I’ve recommended is we initiate an investigation.”
Mendelson said some of Evans’ answers “disturb” him and councilmembers should engage D.C. residents in the discussion of whether to remove Evans from his post.
“It is fundamental that a Council member has to command the trust of his colleagues or her colleagues and the public,” he said. “And it’s clear that that’s shifting among members.”
Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie left today’s meeting before Evans made his opening statement because Evans did not speak under oath. McDuffie said he had questions relating to WMATA’s ethics probe and how he may have used his influence as a Council member for personal gain.
“I didn’t think that I would get answers to the types of questions that I wanted to ask today,” he said.
Members of Ward 2 Citizens Recall, a group of residents pushing to recall Evans from the Council by collecting signatures from 10 percent of registered Ward 2 voters, stood outside of the meeting room to promote their cause.
Adam Eidinger, a leader of Ward 2 Citizens Recall, said residents have collected more than 1,100 signatures – roughly 20 percent of the needed total. Eidinger said members of the group must receive the remaining signatures in the next four months for the effort to be valid.
James Harnett, a rising senior and Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, said he will push a resolution at this month’s ANC meeting to call for Evans’ resignation from the council. Harnett, who joined more than 20 local politicians last week in signing a letter asking for more information on the Council’s investigation of Evans, said he made his decision after hearing about Monday’s meeting.
“He lied to the public at our last public meeting about his unethical (and likely illegal) private sector work,” Harnett wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “He should find the door or be shown it.”