Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said he will stop his outside consulting and legal work, which has sparked an investigation into influence peddling by federal authorities and placed Evans at the center of an ethics scandal.
“No outside job, no outside income, no consulting,” Evans told The Washington Post after a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night in Dupont Circle.
His comments echo what he told colleagues on the D.C. Council in a private meeting last month.
But city records show Evans renewed the business registration for his firm, NSE Consulting LLC, in late March. Asked why he renewed the registration if he no longer planned to work as a consultant, the lawmaker said he was following “the advice of counsel.”
A federal grand jury issued a subpoena in late September for documents relating to Evans and legislation he promoted in 2016 that would have benefited a digital sign company, Digi Outdoor Media. Last month, the D.C. Council and the administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) received federal subpoenas for a wide variety of information related to Evans and his private legal and consulting clients, suggesting that the probe had expanded.
Of the 13-member council, only Evans and council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), a George Washington University law professor, report significant outside income. The ethics questions around Evans have revived debate about whether lawmakers should be prohibited from holding outside employment, with a majority of the council supporting a proposed ban.
At Wednesday’s neighborhood commission meeting, Evans addressed the grand jury investigation at length and said he did not expect “anything will come out of it.”
“I am confident that at the end of this, that everything will be fine, but I can’t say for certain,” said Evans, who was first elected in 1991 and is the council’s longest-serving member. “I will say this has been quite a learning experience.”
Evans appeared more upbeat and calm Wednesday than he had since the investigation was first reported in February. The gathering of about 40 gave him a warm reception, applauding at several points and posing more questions about quality-of-life issues than about the scandal.
The D.C. Council last month reprimanded Evans for repeatedly using his government staff and email in business solicitations to law firms that lobby the city, offering to use his influence and connections to help their clients.
Evans said he did not believe his offers posed an ethical conflict. He said his only mistake was to use his government email account in his outside consulting work and compared it to using an office computer to print a boarding pass for personal travel.
Evans said the proposals “could not have been more poorly drafted” but said he did not expect additional consequences for them.
Responding to a question about tax abatement bills, Evans suggested that he expects to have his full authority restored as chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee if the investigation ends without criminal charges. On April 2, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) led efforts to strip Evans’s committee of oversight of tax abatements as well as local arts and tourism.
“I am hoping that all of this is temporary, and the chairman said it is,” Evans said.
Mendelson declined to comment.
After the Dupont Circle meeting, Evans told The Post he will no longer spend constituent service dollars on seasonal sports tickets.
D.C. law allows elected officials to accept donations to help residents with certain expenses or services, such as an overdue electric bill, the burial of a loved one or a turkey at Thanksgiving.
Eight D.C. Council members and Bowser maintain constituent services funds.
Five council members refuse to maintain them. They are Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6).
Evans has the fattest fund by far, even though his constituents have a median income of $104,504 — the second-highest of any ward in the city. He had $151,714 available in his account at the start of April, and some of those donations came from entities with business before the council.
Evans has spent $162,816 on sports tickets between 2012 and 2018, more than half of his total constituent service fund spending, according to a recent analysis by the government watchdog group Public Citizen.
Evans has defended the purchases by saying he gives some tickets to residents or school auctions and rarely uses the tickets himself. He successfully blocked an effort to stop council members from using constituent service dollars for sporting event tickets as part of a 2011 overhaul of local ethics laws.
Like every member of the D.C. Council, Evans has access to two free seats at every game at Capital One Arena and Nationals Park and for every other game at Audi Field. Most of those seats are in luxury boxes reserved for the lawmakers. Some give away their tickets to constituents, supporters or nonprofit groups.
Evans declined to say why he has used his constituent service fund to buy seasonal tickets if he already has free tickets.