DC Council chair talks about investigation into Jack Evans, feelings of betrayal

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson feels betrayed now that it has become clear that Jack Evans lied to him.

On Monday, Mendelson told reporters that the council member and longtime Metro Board chairman — who was reprimanded and could be removed from chairing the D.C. Council’s Finance Committee due to ethics concerns — now might be removed from the committee entirely.

Mendelson is also not ruling out asking Evans to recuse himself from future votes — including on Wednesday, when Evans is supposed to chair a meeting on sports betting.

“It really depends on what the vote is and it also depends on … how it relates to what we now know with regard to these ethical issues,” Mendelson said.

Evans is under federal investigation over accusations that he used his positions on the D.C. Council and Metro Board for personal gain. And that cloud of suspicion has darkened over the last week.

A memo from Metro’s general counsel — obtained by WTOP — detailed how Evans violated ethics rules when he tried to help a parking company without disclosing a $50,000 payment.

“The [Metro Board’s] Ethics Committee found that Mr. Evans violated Code of Ethics Article II.D by failing to disclose a conflict of interest,” the memo said.

An outside law firm’s review, in fact, found multiple violations. Still, Evans had denied any action had been taken at all until the memo became public. After the memo emerged, Evans issued a letter Thursday saying he would leave the transit agency’s board. He also agreed to update years of disclosure forms.

A day after that, FBI agents searched his Georgetown home.

The council is set to launch its own internal investigation. Mendelson said Monday that an independent law firm will handle it.

“Members and the public were told that there was no finding of a violation by the Metro ethics committee when, in fact, there was,” Mendelson said. “And I don’t think that that misstatement can be minimized.”

Mendelson said several of his colleagues had expressed feelings of betrayal. Asked if he felt betrayed, he said: “I understand that sentiment exactly. Yes, I do.”

Council member Mary Cheh was quoted as saying what Evans did was “straight-up corruption.” Mendelson wouldn’t go that far.

“I think that’s too harsh,” he said. “There’s no question that there’s an ethical issue. ‘Corruption’ suggests bribery. … There’s no evidence of that, so I think that word might be a bit too strong.”

Asked why Evans might still be qualified to remain on the council despite losing his chairmanship, Mendelson said “it’s a question of degrees.”

“That warrants further investigation on our part,” he said. “We have now not one instance — the controversy in March — but two instances, even though they’re closely related.”

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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