DC Council chair weighs in on longtime Council member Jack Evans’ controversy

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said the integrity of the D.C. Council is at stake because of a reported federal inquiry into the business dealings of  Council member Jack Evans.

“There’s no question that if there’s controversy surrounding a member that the institution has to look at that carefully with an eye toward protecting our integrity,” Mendelson said at a news conference Monday.

The Washington Post reported that federal prosecutors are looking into the business affairs of Evans, the chairperson of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue.

Evans, who was first elected to the council in 1991, is a Democrat representing Ward 2, which includes downtown D.C., Georgetown and Logan Circle. 

“Members are not responsible for each other’s behavior. We don’t control each other’s behavior … but there’s no question there’s some controversy here,” Mendelson said.

The chairman expressed concern over allegations that Evans may have pitched business proposals through a D.C. government email account.

“Using council resources for personal purposes is inappropriate,” Mendelson said. “I believe our code of conduct provides that members should not use council resources for personal gain.”

Washington City Paper reported that some of Evans’ private clients were subpoenaed by federal authorities, and his attorney, Mark Tuohey, told the outlet that any work Evans has done outside the council “was permitted by council rules.”

Mendelson said he learned last week that the U.S. attorney’s office issued a subpoena seeking documents in connection with Evan’s dealings, which the chairman said indicated to him that a federal investigation is underway.

“I’m talking to our general counsel so that I know all of the options that the council may consider as a response,” Mendelson said. The chairman said he planned to meet with both Evans and the council’s chief legal officer over the next couple of days.

Evans is the city’s longest-serving lawmaker and the chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board. Records say Evans emailed District lobby firms and argued they should employ him for his ability to cross-market his relationships and influence.

Evans’ actions are being investigated by WMATA, a federal grand jury and the District’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, which Evans helps to oversee. Mendelson says those investigations mean a council probe is unnecessary. However, member David Grosso says the resolution is merely a “slap on the wrist.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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