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D.C. Council member Jack Evans urged to resign from Democratic Party leadership

Jack Evans, center, is sworn in to his seventh term as a D.C. Council member on Jan. 2, 2017. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

The political fallout continued Wednesday from the ethics scandal surrounding D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), with some local Democratic officials demanding his resignation from party leadership and progressive groups calling for him to be stripped of his powerful committee chairmanship.

A group of 23 party officials — or a quarter of the D.C. Democratic State Committee — signed an open letter that urged Evans to step down as a national committeeman.

“We are concerned that the clouds growing over your alleged activities complicate efforts to win D.C. Statehood, determine D.C.’s position in the primary calendar, and restore the faith of D.C. voters that their local Democratic Party leadership puts their interests first,” the letter says.

The Washington Post reported last week that Evans used government resources to solicit business from District lobbying firms, offering them the influence and connections he amassed as the city’s longest serving lawmaker. Federal prosecutors have been probing Evans’s private consulting work.

His colleagues on the D.C. Council plan to reprimand him, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which Evans chairs, began an ethics probe.

Chairman of D.C. Council says Evans acted inappropriately

As an elected national committeeman, Evans represents the District of Columbia on the Democratic National Committee and serves on the local party’s executive committee. He has used that perch to try to move the District’s presidential primary to an earlier spot on the calendar to make it more meaningful. The District’s presidential primary is slated to be the last in the primary cycle, taking place in June 2020.

Asked about the calls for Evans to step aside, Charles Wilson, the state Democratic Party chairman, said he wanted to discuss the matter with more party officials before commenting.

Marcus Goodwin, the president of D.C. Young Democrats, said he thought the letter was premature.

“I do understand their points about not having the distraction of having Jack on the committee, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” said Goodwin, who serves on the party’s executive committee. “I want to ensure that a fair, full, comprehensive process goes through.”

Also Wednesday, D.C. Working Families circulated a petition asking D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) to remove Evans from the chairmanship of the council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue, and from the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which has jurisdiction over the city ethics agency that began an investigation into Evans’s actions. The organization Jews United for Justice is also supporting the petition.

“The loss of public trust, and even the perception of corruption or abuse of that trust, casts a pall over government decisions,” the petition says. “The Council cannot afford to have decisions made by a committee as consequential as Finance and Revenue continue to be marred by questions of impropriety or influence peddling.”

In a brief interview Wednesday, Evans said he was sorry.

“In retrospect, I would have done things differently, and I clearly made some mistakes, and I apologize to members of the Democratic State Committee, as I did to my constituents, residents of the District and colleagues, and ask them for their understanding in this very difficult situation,” he said.

Council offers little reaction in early stages of Evans’s scandal

Council members David Grosso (I-At Large) and Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) want Evans stripped of his committee assignments. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said Evans needs to face consequences in addition to a reprimand but has not said what he thinks those should be.

The Metro board’s ethics committee held a private conference call Wednesday to discuss matters that appeared to relate to Evans, days after Maryland board member Clarence C. Crawford directed the board’s ethics officer to review Evans’s actions. Evans was not on the call.

Faiz Siddiqui contributed to this report.

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