DC Council questions lawyers who investigated Councilman Jack Evans, reported ethics violations

Two outside lawyers hired by the D.C. Council to conduct an investigation of council member Jack Evans went before the ad hoc committee Tuesday to take questions about their report, which found numerous violations of ethics rules.

Attorneys Steve Bunnell and David Leviss, with the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, both spoke about their report.

Asked by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson if their investigation found anything criminal, Bunnell said no, and explained that they weren’t looking for that.

“Our job was to see if there was a violation of the code of conduct, not to put together an indictment for a criminal case,” Bunnell said.

But later on in the meeting, Leviss said: “If somebody’s reporting that we found there were no criminal violations, that’s an incorrect conclusion from our report.”

Council member Charles Allen asked why the attorneys did not interview Evans under oath.

“I’ve been a prosecutor, I’ve used grand juries, I’ve used FBI agents, guys with guns and everything,” Bunnell said. “We were looking for an environment where we could get as much cooperation and get people to feel comfortable talking. We tried to avoid a dynamic where people were worried about making a misstatement, or misremembering something. We did not want to play gotcha, and formality is nice, but it can be chilling.”

Council member David Grosso said he believes Evans committed crimes and should be expelled from council.

“We can no longer believe Jack Evans when he says he’s doing the work of the people, when the evidence shows he’s only been concerned with padding his own pockets. Council member Evans admits it himself in the transcripts of his first interview. He did all this for the general financial benefit, and his greed knows no bounds. This is not only public corruption, but I believe this is a criminal act; and there’s no question in my mind that he should be expelled from this body,” Grosso said.

Ad Hoc Committee Chairman Mary Cheh said the next step is for the committee to hear directly from Evans, and that will happen Dec. 3.

Cheh said the committee also needs to consider whether to conduct an independent investigation beyond what’s already been done.

“My sense is that there’s not a particular appetite to do that, but we don’t have a quorum to have an actual vote on that, and I’d like to nail that down with a vote. So what I may do is bring that up at our meeting when we have Mr. Evans come in,” she said.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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