A committee of the D.C. Council composed of all members except Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans has voted to expel Evans from the council.
An ad hoc committee voted 12-0 on Tuesday to expel him. Evans would be the first member ever expelled from the council. It takes 11 votes to expel a member.
Evans has faced ethics complaints for most of the year. The ad hoc committee has been investigating allegations that Evans used his public office for personal gain.
A report on behalf of the committee released last month claimed Evans had committed numerous ethics violations, such as failing to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in outside income he was being paid, and failing to recuse himself from votes in actions on behalf of clients who were paying him at the time.
“We were each elected to represent the public,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said in a statement Tuesday evening. “We were not elected to un-elect our colleagues. … So the circumstances must be extreme for the Council as a body to intervene.”
He said that Evans’ conduct fit the bill. The report, he said, “found Mr. Evans’ conduct is far worse than simply inappropriate. The public’s trust in our government – in the Council, particularly – has been shattered. Over and over, people question the integrity of our votes because of a pattern and practice of one member, Mr. Evans, to participate when he should not have because of proven conflicts of interest.”
He said that it was “a sad day” for the council, and for Evans and his family. “But when it comes to the reputation of the Council,” Mendelson said, “I have to put principle above friendship and partisanship.”
Evans’ lawyers have said that the accusations were “nowhere near as serious” as his critics had charged, and that the report was leaked to the media “for the purpose of forcing Mr. Evans to resign.”
‘A lack of respect’
At Tuesday’s meeting, members of the council were upset at Evans’ absence, and at the stain they said he had brought on the council.
Council Member Robert White said at Tuesday’s meeting that the point of the hearing was to give Evans an opportunity to speak before the committee and call witnesses, as provided under council rules, but that Evans decided last week not to show up. White said the decision “reinforces that he fails to understand the severity of his actions” and “illustrates a lack of respect for his colleagues.”
White said that Evans, at a July council meeting, said that ignorance of the law was no excuse when the issue was Metro fare evasion, but has since claimed ignorance of the law and council rules as a defense against the accusations.
“Right now,” White said, “the only person in this city who doesn’t know Mr. Evans must resign is Mr. Evans.”
His remarks were met with applause, which was quieted by the committee chair, Council Member Mary Cheh.
Council Member Charles Allen said Evans needed to be expelled to restore trust from the public and the legitimacy of the council. “The public’s trust has clearly been broken,” Allen said, adding, “I don’t know how any of us can trust any vote or any issue or any legislation that Mr. Evans would bring in front of us.”
“We all became unwitting co-conspirators,” said Council Member Elissa Silverman. “We all voted for bills of his, without knowing that he was getting paid by clients who benefited from them.”
She added, “If we don’t expel Council Member Evans for this, then I honestly don’t know what would rise to the level of expulsion.”
Council Member Kenyan McDuffie called Evans’ actions “the most egregious abuse of power I’ve witnessed.”
Mendelson said in the statement that he expects the full council will receive the committee report Dec. 17 and will set a hearing for the first week in January. They’ll vote on expulsion two weeks after that.
Asked whether the expulsion process could go on for a long time, Cheh said at the meeting, “I don’t think so. The handwriting is on the wall.”
You can find the report on the D.C. Council website.
More efforts against Evans
Evans is also facing an effort to hold a recall election next year; he has challenged the validity of about one-third of the signatures on the recall petition, enough to end the recall effort if they’re all invalidated. He’s also the subject of a federal investigation that included a raid on his house in June.
In August, Evans was fined by the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability after the board said he used his office for personal gain.
Evans stepped down in June from the Metro board of directors, where he had been chairman, after a Metro investigation found Evans had failed to disclose contracts worth several hundred thousand dollars, even as he tried to help those companies get business with Metro.
Before the D.C. Council recessed for the summer, it disbanded its Committee on Finance and Revenue that Evans chaired to essentially strip him of the position, but it rejected a proposal to remove him from all council committees with a tied vote of 6 to 6.
Nine of the other 12 members of the council have said publicly that Evans should resign.
Evans is the longest-serving member of the council, having taken office in 1991.
WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.