Evans resigned last month from the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat he held for nearly three decades, days before his colleagues were set to expel him for repeated ethics violations. He then filed to reclaim his old seat and is slated to compete both in the June 2 Democratic primary for a full term starting in 2021 and in the June 16 special election to serve out the remainder of the current term.
The ethics board first opened its inquiry in 2018 to review the ties that existed between Evans and a digital sign company before he proposed legislation to assist the business, according to District officials familiar with the matter. City officials said they paused their probe after federal law enforcement officials warned that it could interfere with an ongoing investigation.
Rochelle Ford, the acting director of government ethics at the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, said the board reopened the probe in light of Evans’s resignation and the other investigations that uncovered evidence of ethics violations during his time as a lawmaker. She told The Washington Post that the agency consulted law enforcement but declined to elaborate.
Ford publicly confirmed that the case was reopened under questioning Wednesday by council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) during an oversight hearing.
Evans did not return a request for comment.
The ethics board fined Evans $20,000 last summer for using government resources and abusing the prestige of office when he used memos touting his influence and connections as a public official to solicit employment from local law firms. That probe was separate from the broader investigation into Evans that had been paused.
Several members of the D.C. Council have complained that the ethics board, which was formed in the aftermath of numerous scandals involving council members earlier in the decade, was on the sidelines of the Evans case.
Then-government ethics director Brent Wolfingbarger told lawmakers at an oversight hearing last year that he did not want to cross federal law enforcement by investigating Evans and that he “could probably put the whole staff on [the Evans case] and not do any work on other investigations.”
Wolfingbarger resigned at the end of last year.
The federal inquiry did not stop the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, where Evans served as board chairman, from launching its own ethics investigation. The board concluded Evans violated ethics rules when he tried to get the agency to investigate the competitor of a parking company that hired him as a consultant.
Evans stepped down from the Metro board last June.
The council then spent $250,000 to hire a private law firm to conduct its own probe into Evans and whether he violated the legislative body’s code of conduct. The firm told council members that federal investigators had raised no objections to its examination. The probe concluded that Evans improperly used his office to help friends and businesses who paid him $400,000 to offer consulting services that the lawmaker struggled to describe.
Evans has said that the alleged violations were unintentional and that he offered clients constituent services as he would for other businesses and residents.
But his 12 colleagues were not convinced and were ready to make him the first council member in history removed from office before his resignation.