D.C. Council removes Evans from committee chairmanship, launches investigation

Media Credit: Dean Whitelaw | Staff Photographer

Council chairman Phil Mendelson said the vote is a step toward disenfranchising Ward 2 voters as councilmember Jack Evans bids for reelection.

The D.C. Council voted to strip Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans of his committee chairmanship and launch an investigation into his business dealings Tuesday.

Councilmembers agreed to remove Evans from his leadership position on the council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue – making him the only councilmember who does not head a committee – and will hire the law firm O’Melveny & Meyers to investigate Evans’ potential ethics violations. While the Council Period 23 Rules and Investigation Authority Amendment Resolution received broad support, councilmembers were divided on taking additional action.

At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, the only member who has called for Evans’ resignation from the council, introduced an amendment to remove Evans from all of his committee assignments. The amendment failed in a tied 6-to-6 vote, with Evans opposing the measure and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White Sr. absent for the birth of his child.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson criticized the measure as an “unprecedented” step before the council has begun its investigation into Evans, describing it as “as close as we can get to disenfranchising Ward 2 voters.”

“I think that what you’re proposing here is more commensurate with a level of discipline that is appropriate after an investigation,” Mendelson told Grosso at the meeting. “And as I’ve said before, he’s entitled to due process as are the voters who elected him.”

Mendelson added that the law firm’s investigation will take place during the summer and cost between $100,000 and $200,000.

The council’s action comes one week after Evans addressed his fellow councilmembers regarding a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors ethics probe into his business dealings, which found that the councilmember had a conflict of interest arising from a paid consulting agreement with Colonial Parking, Inc. Evans resigned from the Metro board following the probe, and federal agents searched Evans’ home days later.

Grosso also proposed an amendment to accelerate the creation of an ad hoc committee to complement the law firm’s investigation. The council is slated to create a committee this fall to review the recommendations of the investigation.

“All we are doing is giving Mr. Evans more time to build his defense which to date, in my opinion, has been full of untruths, misleading statements and no recognition of the wrongdoing that has been done to the people of the District of Columbia,” Grosso said at the meeting.

Grosso, citing skepticism of the investigation process after all of his amendments failed to pass, was the only councilmember to join Evans in opposing the resolution authorizing the investigation and removing Evans from his chairmanship.

The resolution removes Evans from his leadership position by dissolving the finance committee and reassigning its responsibilities to existing committees. At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman criticized the reorganization as a ploy from Mendelson to win support for a controversial $215 million sole-source sports betting contract, which passed in a 7-to-5 vote later during the council meeting.

“The reorganization, however, seems to reinforce the public’s concerns that everything has a price at the Wilson Building, even committee assignments,” Silverman said. “A decision has been made behind closed doors to dissolve Finance and Revenue and redistribute its portfolio to certain members.”

Mendelson told Silverman at the meeting that he was “offended” by Silverman’s line of questioning. He declined to answer reporters’ questions about the issue at the meeting.

The council also voted on an emergency resolution introduced by Silverman that would have removed Corbett Price, an Evans ally, from WMATA’s board after he lied about the results of the Metro’s ethics probe into Evans. Councilmembers rejected the measure in an 8-to-4 vote.

Evans remained nearly silent throughout the meeting. He released a statement Monday in advance of the meeting reaffirming his understanding of “the high calling of being an elected official” and his desire to “devote my time on the Council to the redemptive challenge of their goodwill.”

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