“Respondent failed to seek specific ethics advice as guided, failed to maintain a high level of integrity in connection with the performance of his official duties, and adversely affected the confidence of the public in the integrity of the District government,” the agreement said.
The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability on Friday confirmed reaching a settlement with Evans and imposing a $35,000 fine, the largest fine ever levied by the agency. It follows a $20,000 fine the board imposed on Evans last year for using government resources while trying to get hired by local law firms.
Evans told The Washington Post that he welcomed the end to the ethics probe and the finding that his violations were based on his “mistaken understanding” of ethics rules.
“I’m glad to get this all behind me,” Evans said. “The big issue is getting everything done and behind me, and them acknowledging this is all one big mistake.”
The ethics board said Evans violated disclosure and conflict-of-interest rules when he took official action that could benefit his paying clients, including arranging meetings between a client and government officials and advocating against an increase in a commercial parking lot tax while representing a parking garage operator.
Evans defended his conduct as helping clients in the same way he would offer assistance to other businesses and residents with issues before D.C. government. He described his consulting arrangements as retainer deals to be available to provide advice as needed. The ethics board found those deals troubling.
“Respondent also failed to recognize that the broad nature of his advisory consulting engagements (which merely required him to be available) appeared to be dependent upon the prestige of office that he had established through decades of public service as a District Councilmember,” the settlement agreement says. “As a result of the Respondent’s conduct, District residents have ample reason to question whether he performed his official duties in a fair, impartial and objective manner.”
Evans has been embroiled in scandal after investigators and journalists scrutinized his dealings with local businesses and developers who paid him for consulting services. Evans struggled to explain the consulting work he did for these companies before voting on legislation that affected them or assisting them with issues with city government.
Evans said he interpreted city ethics rules as requiring him to report his outside employers but not his clients, and he said he believed it was appropriate to work with businesses that had interests at City Hall if he was not advising them on those matters. Ethics investigators concluded otherwise.
Evans is running in the June 2 Democratic primary for the Ward 2 council seat in a field of eight candidates, asking voters to forgive him for his ethics missteps. Early voting started Friday, with voters encouraged to mail absentee ballots to avoid crowding at polling places during the pandemic.
In January, Evans resigned the seat he held for nearly three decades as the rest of the council prepared to formally expel him. Days later, he filed paperwork to run for his seat again in the special election to fill the vacancy triggered by his resignation and for a full four-year term. He has since dropped out of the special election.
The ethics board’s probe largely followed the lead of other investigators who have scrutinized Evans’s dealings.
Law firms retained by the Metro board, where Evans served as chairman, and the council found that Evans repeatedly broke ethics rules by failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest and using his office to advance the interests of his paying clients. Evans has said any violations were unintentional.
Federal prosecutors issued subpoenas to city government for documents related to Evans, and FBI agents searched his Georgetown home last year, but Evans was not charged with a crime. The status of that federal probe is unclear.
The city ethics board had paused its investigation to avoid interfering with the federal probe but reopened it in recent months.
As part of his settlement with the city’s board, Evans promised not to engage in similar conduct in the future. Evans has said he disbanded the consulting firm at the heart of the ethics controversy and would not make outside income if voters return him to the D.C. Council.
“As I have said often, I am sorry for any mistakes I made and hope D.C. residents will allow me to continue to work for them in solving the many issues D.C. will have as we try to get back to normal lives soon,” Evans said in a statement responding to the agreement.
The city ethics board separately concluded Evans did not violate ethics rules by casting votes on the council regarding disciplinary measures against him, including a decisive vote that ensured he kept committee assignments.