Brent Wolfingbarger, the board’s director of government ethics, said he paused a probe into Evans at the request of federal law enforcement authorities, who are also investigating the city’s longest-serving lawmaker.
FBI agents searched Evans’s Georgetown home in June, and a grand jury has issued subpoenas for documents related to Evans and his consulting clients. Evans has not been charged with a crime and has maintained he acted appropriately.
Law firms hired by the D.C. Council and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, where Evans spent several years as board chair, both conducted recent investigations into Evans without running afoul of law enforcement.
Under questioning Thursday, Wolfingbarger said he will ask board members next week whether to seek permission from law enforcement to move ahead with a probe.
The ethics board has already fined Evans $20,000 for using government resources and touting his influence as an elected official while soliciting employment from local law firms.
Wolfingbarger said he was confident he could pursue that narrow case without interfering with the federal probe.
He said after the hearing that he would consult with law enforcement about a larger investigation but was doubtful they would allow him to proceed.
Still, lawyers hired by the council to investigate Evans said that the U.S. attorney’s office did not object to them speaking to their witnesses. The firm concluded that Evans repeatedly used his office to assist companies that paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The ethics board was formed in 2013 after a string of ethics and corruption scandals involving council members. It was designed to police elected officials.
But several lawmakers have complained that the agency has been missing in action during one of the biggest ethics scandals in D.C. government in recent years.
“We are spending a lot of taxpayer dollars to go do these other investigations that we would otherwise assume be done by BEGA,” said Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who convened Thursday’s hearing. The firm hired by the council was paid $250,000.
At one point, Wolfingbarger suggested that a probe of Evans would present a daunting challenge.
“To be quite honest, there are so many allegations involving Mr. Evans, I could probably put the whole staff on it and not do any work on other investigations,” he said. “We can’t be everywhere.”