The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ahead of vote on gambling contract, new questions on lobbyist’s work with D.C. Council member Jack Evans

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) during a council meeting on Tuesday at which his colleagues, including council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), left, questioned him about his private business dealings. (Marlena Sloss/The Washington Post)

As the D.C. Council prepares to vote on a $215 million lottery and sports betting contract, several council members are questioning the relationship between council member Jack Evans and a lobbyist connected to the contractor, Greek gaming company Intralot.

The lobbyist, William Jarvis, helped Evans set up a legal firm, NSE Consulting, that has become the focus of multiple investigations into Evans’s private business dealings. He has also lobbied Evans and other council members on numerous bills, including legislation related to sports betting, which he did on behalf of a venture launched by Intralot.

Evans has said Jarvis was only involved in registering NSE as a business and received no compensation for the work or for serving as the firm’s registered agent.

But emails reviewed by The Washington Post show Jarvis, a lawyer, also provided Evans with detailed legal advice about NSE contracts that Jarvis was involved in negotiating.

The messages between Jarvis and an NSE client in 2016, which were shown to The Post under the condition that the client’s identity and other specifics not be reported, involve negotiations and revisions of agreements between the client and NSE. Jarvis says in the emails that he has done similar work for the firm with another client.

Most of D.C. sports gambling contract would benefit companies with ties to city hall

Jarvis’s provision of such legal services goes well beyond what has previously been reported about the lobbyist’s involvement with NSE.

Even the role of registered agent — a person tasked mainly with receiving legal notices sent to a business — has raised questions about whether Evans faced conflicts of interest in supporting bills for which Jarvis lobbied, including the sports betting legislation backed by the joint venture involving Intralot.

The council’s Code of Official Conduct prohibits D.C. lawmakers from using their positions to influence matters they know will directly affect the financial interests of somebody closely affiliated with them. On Tuesday, the council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve a sole-source contract for Intralot to create a sports betting program in the city and administer it for the next five years.

Under questioning last week by his council colleagues, Evans repeated his assertion that Jarvis is merely a friend and played no role at NSE beyond registered agent. Evans similarly told The Post last year, “Bill is the registered agent. That’s all he is. He’s not part of it.”

Evans and his lawyers did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Jarvis declined to comment last week. He told The Post in April that he’s been friends with Evans for more than 25 years, since they practiced law together in the 1980s.

“Any assistance that I have provided him over the years was an extension of this long-term friendship,” Jarvis said in a statement. “The idea that I would need to resort to unethical tactics to gain access to the Council member is patently untrue and unfair. Throughout my career, in all my business dealings, I have operated with complete integrity.”

Evans is being investigated by the Justice Department, but has not been charged with any crime. He resigned from the Metro board last month after The Post reported the board’s ethics committee concluded he failed to disclose a conflict of interest related to his consulting work.

In grand jury subpoenas to D.C. officials in March, prosecutors sought information about the relationship between Evans and Jarvis, among others.

The nephew of former council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), Jarvis was Evans’s campaign chairman when he ran for mayor in 1997 and has served in various other campaign roles and as a lawyer for Evans and his political action committee.

In his April statement to The Post, Jarvis said he has not served as Evans’s “contracted attorney” since 2009. He declined to answer additional questions, saying he wanted to limit public comments out of respect for the investigations of Evans.

As probes advance, Council member Jack Evans is increasingly isolated

Jarvis’s role in helping register NSE in 2016 was first reported last year by Jeffrey Anderson of the website District Dig. Anderson also reported on required disclosures showing Jarvis has lobbied Evans on legislation including bills to allow large digital signs around Nationals Park and exempt the National Community Reinvestment Coalition from certain property taxes. Both passed with strong support from Evans.

Last year, Jarvis told The Post he’d helped with NSE’s online business registration forms because Evans lacked Internet savvy. “I am not in business with him and have nothing to do with the operations of the entity,” Jarvis said.

But the emails with the NSE client show Jarvis’s involvement did not end there. Jarvis was a primary point of contact for the client in negotiating with NSE, according to the messages, and he revised agreements to suit the client’s needs.

The emails were exchanged during late 2016, when Jarvis was lobbying Evans on behalf of the Washington Nationals.

District ethics rules require lobbyists to disclose any city official with whom they have “a business relationship or a professional services relationship” and identify the nature of the relationship. The rules also prohibit lobbyists from gifting services worth more than $100 to city officials. Jarvis has not disclosed a relationship to Evans on lobbying disclosure forms.

After the relationship between the two men came under scrutiny, Evans listed himself as NSE’s registered agent. He recently closed the firm and pledged to stop outside consulting work.

Jarvis lobbied Evans on behalf of Intralot and another company last year about the District’s sports betting legislation, a required disclosure form shows. The second company, Veterans Services Corp., is joined with Intralot in a venture called DC09, which runs the District’s lottery and previously had Jarvis lobby Evans on lottery matters.

Evans co-sponsored the bill allowing sports betting in the District and championed legislation allowing the city to suspend competitive bidding rules in awarding the contract to manage it.

If the council votes to award Intralot a five-year contract of up to $215 million to run both the lottery and sports betting, Veterans Services Corp. would receive up to $110 million as a subcontractor.

At the council meeting last week, Evans agreed to answer questions about Metro’s probe of his conduct. But his colleagues asked about Jarvis as well, with council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) noting the prohibitions on council members taking actions that directly benefit people with whom they have business relationships.

“Do you believe that under the conflicts rules that he — by virtue of his assistance to you in setting this up and serving in this capacity — was an associate?” Cheh asked, citing Jarvis’s role as the registered agent for NSE.

“No,” Evans replied.

Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) asked whether Jarvis helped draft NSE contracts or negotiate with clients.

“Mr. Jarvis is a longtime friend, so he’s been helpful to me over the years in a lot of areas,” Evans said.

He declined to answer further questions on the subject.

Peter Jamison contributed to this report.

Most of the District’s $215 million sports gambling contract to benefit companies with ties to city hall

Sports gambling will earn D.C. nearly $16 million less than projected, officials say

Jack Evans addresses D.C. Council about growing ethics scandal

Local newsletters: Local headlines (8 a.m.) | Afternoon Buzz (4 p.m.)

Like PostLocal on Facebook | Follow @postlocal on Twitter | Latest local news