Earlier in the day, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said at a news conference that Evans had “obliterated the public trust.”
But he stopped short of saying Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker, should leave office, although Mendelson acknowledged that the two had discussed resignation about two months ago.
The council hired O’Melveny & Myers in July to review Evans’s private employment and public actions over the past five years. In a 97-page report, the firm identified 11 instances in which Evans allegedly violated council ethics rules by taking official actions that aided employers or consulting clients, who paid him $400,000 over the period. His actions included assisting a development company with city agencies while it was paying him consulting fees and championing a controversial merger between Pepco and Exelon while seeking work at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, the law firm handling the deal.
Investigators concluded that Evans failed to recognize the conflicts and did not properly disclose his private clients. D.C. lawmakers earn about $140,000 and are permitted to have outside employment but are required to avoid conflicts of interest.
Evans, first elected in 1991, attended the regular council breakfast Tuesday and said he has “no intention of resigning.” Later in the day, he released a 67-page rebuttal written by his lawyers, Abbe Lowell and Mark Tuohey.
Lowell and Tuohey wrote that the investigating law firm had inflated clerical errors and misunderstandings of ethics rules and had taken several responses by Evans out of context. They maintain it was appropriate for a council member to help companies with matters they have before city government, even if the politician was receiving private payments from those entities.
“Issues as mundane as road pavers, delinquent permits, and forwarded emails do not constitute conflicts of interest,” Lowell and Tuohey wrote. “They are among the many routine services that council members provide all constituents, regardless of any other relationships that may exist.”
But others on the council said the findings were evidence of a clear pattern of unethical conduct.
“We can no longer be confident that the business before us is untainted as long as he’s here,” Nadeau said.
Cheh said if Evans does not resign, the rest of the council would press ahead with its investigation, meeting with the law firm’s investigators on Nov. 19 and giving Evans an opportunity to defend himself at a later meeting.
Council members Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) declined to comment on the report because they hadn’t read it, they said, while Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) expressed concern about the findings but wanted to finish reading the report before weighing in. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) declined to comment.
The council has several options for discipline, including reprimand, censure and expulsion with the support of 11 of 13 members. It could also strip Evans of all committee assignments, a measure that failed on a deadlocked vote over the summer.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who has counted on Evans as an ally on the council, did not respond to requests for comment about the report.
Evans’s lawyers said the firm reached “flawed conclusions” on the basis of incomplete information.
For example, they said that Evans’s support for the utility merger preceded his interest in working at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and that he disclosed the relationship to the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability when he learned about it.
They also said Evans was being unfairly held to ethical standards that were not made clear to lawmakers.
The city’s ethics board and the council itself “failed at multiple critical junctures to provide the clarity, training, and guidance needed to avoid problems inherent in permissible outside employment,” Lowell and Tuohey wrote.
Grosso said he was especially troubled by the report’s finding that Evans did little consulting work for clients while he was promoting their interests before city government.
“What he’s done, in my opinion, is no different than what Michael Brown did when he took a coffee mug full of cash,” said Grosso, referring to a former council member convicted of bribery. “He was just getting paid off to do favors for his clients on the council.”
Evans says it’s not unusual for consultants to be hired on retainer, an arrangement in which they are paid to be available to provide advice and services as needed.
The report marked the first time the D.C. Council has detailed alleged ethical lapses by Evans. His business interests and his public actions have been the target of a federal investigation, and FBI agents searched his home over the summer. He has not been charged with a crime.
A separate investigation by a different law firm hired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, where Evans had served as Metro board chairman, reached similar conclusions this year about the lawmaker’s actions at the transit agency. The city ethics agency also fined Evans $20,000 for touting his influence as an elected official and using government email while trying to land work at local law firms.
Several lawmakers said they were fed up with revelations about Evans. “This process has wasted too much time, money, and trust, and it is time he resign,” Allen said in a statement.