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Virginia set to call for release of Metro’s Jack Evans ethics investigation

D.C. Council member Jack Evans listens to a question during a news conference at WMATA headquarters, on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

After Metro’s ethics investigation into board Chairman Jack Evans was quietly closed last month, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission Chairman Matt Letourneau is calling for the findings to be made public.

A draft letter to Metro the Loudoun County supervisor is set to present to the commission Thursday night expresses serious concerns about the accusations against Evans — without actually using Evans’ name.

“The conduct that necessitated the ethics investigation raises concerns about the behavior of a board member, WMATA’s procurement practices and WMATA’s overall accountability. The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission requests that the Ethics Committee provide information about the basis for the investigation and make public the findings,” the draft letter said.

The Metro Board had been set to act on some type of discipline for Evans, before a closed-door meeting was abruptly canceled and converted into another Ethics Committee meeting where Evans apparently got to make his case. 

Immediately after that meeting, the investigation was closed with no formal action taken against Evans.

At the next public board meetings, Maryland’s Clarence Crawford, who led the investigation, expressed potential future support for extending rail service hours that were cut back in 2016 and 2017, a key focus for Evans, then Evans announced he would not seek another term as Metro Board chairman.

Crawford would not confirm whether or not there was any agreement reached that led to the closure of the investigation, or what the investigation found.

Lawyers were involved in the investigation, along with the four members of the Metro Board that formed the Ethics Committee. One member each represented Maryland, Virginia, the District and the federal government on the committee.

Evans plans to remain on the Metro Board but not serve as chairman after the end of this month.

Had there been a formal recommendation for action, Metro Board bylaws call for a public session to consider it and written findings that would be publicly available.

Any sanctions would have required the board to first confer with the body responsible for appointing Evans — in this case, the D.C. Council — to determine appropriate action, such as a reprimand, removal from committees or requesting that the council revoke Evans’ appointment.

The draft Virginia letter to Metro’s board of directors urges the release of details about the findings on whether Evans used or attempted to use his position for personal gain.

Letourneau was optimistic the letter would be approved.

Virginia leaders are particularly concerned after the region committed additional long-term funding to Metro last year.

“In return for the investment that Virginia’s local and state government and taxpayers are making to WMATA, there must be accountability and transparency. When serious allegations are made and an investigation conducted, the results must be disclosed to the greatest extent possible, and the public must be assured that appropriate action has been taken. The stakes are high, and WMATA is under great scrutiny. The failure to act transparently in this matter to date is not consistent with our expectations, nor those of our funding partners and the public,” the draft letter said.

Evans has already been reprimanded by his colleagues on the D.C. Council and remains under federal investigation.

“Releasing a report on the findings of the Ethics Committee’s recently closed investigation will demonstrate WMATA’s commitment to accountability and transparency, and help the agency bolster the public’s confidence as the region embarks on critical capital projects and funding requests,” the letter said.

The commission, which appoints Virginia’s members of the Metro Board, is set to vote on the letter Thursday night. If the commission of Northern Virginia state and local officials approves the letter, it would be sent to the Metro Board on Friday.

Courtesy copies would also go to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who has called on Evans to resign from the board entirely.

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