Former Metro board chairman Jack Evans threatened the jobs of the agency’s top lawyer and board secretary in an effort to keep secret that the panel’s ethics committee had found he committed a violation, according to confidential agency documents.
Evans repeatedly berated Metro General Counsel Patricia Y. Lee and board corporate secretary Jennifer Green Ellison in the spring for their work on the inquiry, to the point that Metro officials were concerned the two might sue the agency for wrongful termination or creating a hostile work environment, the documents and interviews show.
Ellison told then-ethics committee Chairman Clarence C. Crawford in May that Evans told her, “Be careful, you could be next” to be fired after Lee, according to handwritten notes taken by Crawford.
According to the notes, Ellison said the threat was enough to make the “hair on back of your neck stand up.”
Crawford’s notes were part of more than 900 pages of internal documents from the ethics committee investigation of Evans obtained by The Washington Post.
The documents provide new details about how Evans sought to limit the scope of the ethics inquiry and prevent the committee’s conclusions from being made public, or even divulged to the full Metro board.
He succeeded for a time because of a deadlock on the four-member ethics committee, according to the documents. Members Corbett Price and David Horner favored confidentiality, while Crawford and Paul Smedberg wanted the results disclosed.
The secrecy effort ultimately failed when Crawford revealed June 17 that the committee found Evans had violated the board’s ethics code by failing to disclose he had a conflict of interest because of a $50,000-a-year contract with the District’s largest parking company. Crawford released the information after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and other state and local officials called on Metro to make the results of the inquiry public.
Three days later, after additional revelations, Evans announced he would resign from the Metro board.
Evans referred questions to his lawyer, Mark Tuohey, who said, “Jack maybe said things in anger that he regretted and apologized for, but he certainly never intended that anybody be fired.”
Evans was angry, Tuohey said, because he believed that once the ethics committee had made its decision, “The rules provide that the matter remains in the ethics committee, but without public disclosure. Jack was very upset that that came out.”
Price denied he had sought to prevent disclosure of the committee’s actions to the full board, but he also criticized Crawford for releasing the information without consulting the committee.
“It was my understanding that there was no requirement for it to be made public,” Price said.
Asked about notes indicating he angrily pressured Lee, Price said he was frustrated that it was difficult to get information.
Horner did not respond to requests for comment. Lee and Ellison declined to comment. The two still work for Metro.
Evans’s troubles at Metro are only part of his political and legal woes, which arose from disclosures that he offered to use his official positions at Metro and on the D.C. Council to help clients or potential employers. Evans is a longtime Democratic council member who represents Ward 2, including Georgetown and most of downtown.
The D.C. Council has formally reprimanded Evans and stripped him of his powerful position as chairman of the finance committee. The U.S. attorney’s office has issued subpoenas to D.C. government and Metro officials regarding Evans, and the FBI has searched his home.
Five challengers have filed to run against Evans in next year’s Democratic primary. He has not filed to seek reelection but has until March to do so.
The internal Metro documents include draft resolutions and talking points, emails and handwritten notes of Crawford and Lynn M. Bowersox, Metro’s senior vice president for customer service, communications and marketing.
The most revealing details are from the two officials’ notes from the period immediately before and after a decisive May 7 ethics committee meeting. It was at that meeting that the panel agreed that Evans committed a violation, and that he would both correct his financial disclosure forms and agree not to seek reelection as board chairman when his term ended June 30.
The notes show a tug of war in which Evans, along with Price and Horner, blocked efforts by Crawford to inform the full board of the committee’s findings and to provide some information about the outcome to the public. Two days after the meeting, Crawford’s notes refer to a “2-2 split on rollout” on the committee.
Around the same time, notes of both Crawford and Bowersox refer to Evans’s threats against Lee and Ellison.
“Learned that Jack threatened the jobs Patty [Lee] and Jenny [Ellison],” Crawford’s notes of May 8 say.
Bowersox’s notes on the same day read, “Patty advised Jack threatening her job and Jennifer’s.” The following day, Bowersox’s notes read: “Threats and yelling continue. Patty getting repeat calls from Jack and Corbett.”
Asked Tuesday about the notes, Crawford and Bowersox said Evans was unhappy with Lee for helping to bring in an outside law firm to investigate him. The firm’s investigation found Evans committed ethics violations in which he put his personal interests ahead of Metro’s. The divided ethics committee agreed to cite him on only one offense.
Evans also was displeased that Lee drafted a detailed resolution for the full board describing all of the committee’s findings, according to documents and interviews. She did so at Crawford’s request, but the document never went to the board because of Evans’s opposition and the deadlock on the committee.
“I was witnessing [Lee] receiving the calls” from Evans and Price, Bowersox said. “Patty was telling me she was not returning the calls because they were literally harassing.”
Evans was angry with Ellison first because she followed Crawford’s instructions in refusing to issue a brief news release that Evans drafted and appeared to clear him entirely, Crawford said.
The proposed statement was shared with the board, drawing sharp criticism from board member Michael Goldman, who warned in an email: “It raises more questions than it answers. . . . This statement will be a PR disaster.”
When Lee drafted a more detailed news release, saying Evans would amend his disclosure forms and commit to not seek reelection as board chair, Evans rejected it — apparently fearing it implied he had done something wrong, according to documents and interviews.
Later, Evans complained to Ellison when she followed Crawford’s instructions in attempting to schedule two meetings of the full board, where the committee would report its findings.
Both meetings were canceled after Evans said the District would not send any representatives, thus denying a quorum. Evans and Price are the District’s two voting members of the Metro board.
“Repeated attempts by com[mittee] to brief full board scuttled,” read Bowersox’s notes on May 14. “Each time DC threatened staff, process, leaks, not participating to scuttle quorum.”
In talking points prepared by Bowersox for Crawford in advance of one of the canceled board meetings, Crawford was to tell the board it needed “to be aware that this process has been difficult, and that Mr. Evans has made threats to publicly criticize the Board, the Ethics Committee, the staff, and the outside counsel who supported the ethics investigation.”
It went on to say that Lee and Ellison’s “jobs were threatened because they were supporting the process per my [Crawford’s] direction, which I have documented in the event a [legal] claim is brought against the Board.”
Eventually, Crawford cut a deal with Evans in which Evans would announce at the May 23 board meeting that he would not seek reelection as chairman. In return for that commitment, no news release would be issued immediately regarding the outcome of the investigation.
At the same time, Evans apologized to Lee and Ellison, according to Crawford, who left the board July 1 when his term expired.
Evans made the announcement on May 23 but falsely claimed to reporters that there was no connection between his decision to not seek reelection as board chair and the outcome of the ethics probe.
Crawford complained to Tuohey, and his notes say the lawyer “agreed Jack crossed the line.”
When asked Thursday about the exchange, Tuohey said, “I did agree that Jack should cease statements if he was making statements like that.”
Evans continued to make false statements about the probe. He insisted until June 19 that the ethics committee had cleared him and acknowledged the truth only after The Post disclosed a May 7 memo written by Lee that confirmed the finding of a violation.
In an apparent sign of Evans’s mind-set, one of Crawford’s notes refers to Evans’s desire to find out who at Metro disclosed at the start of the inquiry in March that he was under investigation. Bowersox had done so, at Crawford’s instruction.
Crawford’s May 9 note reads that Evans “want[s] to find out who release[d] info investigation to the press because he wants to get them.”
Steve Thompson and Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.