On Thursday, I wrote about long-simmering allegations about D.C. Council member Jack Evans’ role in a $272 million city financing deal to build a hotel on 9th Street NW next to the Washington Convention Center. Since he recused himself from a series of 2009 Council votes, a group of activists have pressed Evans (D-Ward 2) to detail the reasons for the recusals, including conflicts of interest involving his other job as a lawyer for the Patton Boggs firm.
The original allegations surrounded Marriott International Inc., which will be operating the 14-story Marriott Marquis hotel for developers Quadrangle and Capstone. Last week, Marriott and Patton Boggs both confirmed they had no business relationship. But less than a day after I wrote about the lack of a Marriott conflict, the activists presented a 2009 e-mail from an Evans aide explaining to a resident that he had recused himself not because of a Marriott conflict, but because of a conflict with a finance partner in the deal, ING Clarion Real Estate Investment.
The July 2009 e-mail, written in Evans’s voice but signed by late aide Jeff Coudriet, explained that Patton Boggs “represents ING who are the equity partners in the private financing part of the hotel. Until this development in June 2009, I previously did not have a conflict of interest.”
Evans confirmed today that Patton Boggs represented ING at the time. He said that he does not consider that to be an actual conflict of interest because ING has no direct business relationship with the city on the deal, only with the developers.
“In my viewpoint, there was no conflict of interest,” Evans said. “They had nothing to do with he city.”
What is troubling to activist John Hanrahan is not only that Evans declined to detail the reasons for his recusal for so long — he told Washington City Paper last week that he did not want to respond to Hanrahan directly, calling him a “[expletive] idiot” — but that Evans continued to shepherd the deal to fruition after the council votes, working with then-Attorney General Peter J. Nickles to clear up a legal dispute involving Marriott that threatened to delay or even scuttle the hotel project. Evans’s involvement, he argues, indirectly benefitted ING’s investment in the project.
“Jack Evans unrecused himself and ... helped put this deal back on track,” said Hanrahan.
Evans said he did not disclose the ING issue when questioned about the deal last week, because he said he “was focused on Marriott.”
“That’s all anyone was asking about,” he said.
Said Hanrahan, “This is why we have conflict of interest reporting laws and why public officials are supposed to abide by them, not pick and choose what they do or don’t disclose.”
Citing an opinion from the Council’s top lawyer, Evans said he does not plan to write a letter to ethics authorities explaining the potential conflict, as Hanrahan and others have demanded. The opinion, written in April, discusses Marriott’s nonrelationship with Patton Boggs, but not ING’s actual relationship.