Metro’s inspector general will investigate the agency’s ethics probe of former board chairman Jack Evans at the request of the House Oversight Committee, officials said Friday.
The inquiry is expected to look at evidence that Evans and former Metro board member Corbett A. Price sought to impede the investigation of Evans in the spring by the Metro board’s ethics committee.
The probe by Metro Inspector General Geoffrey Cherrington adds yet another investigation to ones already underway into Evans. It appears to ensure that Price’s conduct also will get a closer look.
Evans is under scrutiny from the U.S. attorney’s office and a law firm retained by the D.C. Council, on which Evans is a longtime Democratic member representing Ward 2. The probes focus in part on whether he used official positions to help his personal legal and consulting business.
Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) sent a letter to Cherrington requesting that he look into Evans’s and Price’s conduct. Cummings chairs the Oversight Committee and Connolly chairs its government operations subcommittee, which has responsibility for Metro.
They acted three days after their Republican counterparts on the committee, who are in the minority, asked that congressional staff — not the Metro inspector general — investigate Evans and Price.
Cherrington said Friday that he was still reviewing the committee’s request but planned to honor it.
“Of course we’ll investigate it, but we’re evaluating what our next steps are going to be,” he said.
The issue is sensitive, because Cherrington will have to be careful not to interfere with the federal probe of Evans. Metro has received two grand jury subpoenas regarding Evans, and FBI agents searched his home in June.
Congress is interested in both Evans’s questionable business dealings and indications that he and Price sought to conceal results of the Metro ethics investigation.
An outside law firm retained by the Metro ethics committee to investigate Evans found that he committed multiple ethical violations. But the four-member panel, which deadlocked 2 to 2 on some issues, could agree only that he committed a single violation of failing to disclose a conflict of interest with a parking company.
The committee drew widespread criticism for initially keeping its findings secret. That allowed Evans and Price, who was on the ethics committee, to falsely claim that Evans had been cleared. Ultimately, the findings came out, and Evans and Price resigned from the board.
The Oversight Committee obtained more than 900 pages of Metro documents in July detailing the agency’s probe.
“These documents paint a disturbing picture of Mr. Evans’s ethical transgressions that resulted in his resignation from the Board,” the letter from Cummings and Connolly said.
The documents also detail efforts by Evans and Price “to impede the Ethics Committee’s investigative process,” the letter said. “These actions include verbal attacks and intimidation against staff and efforts to stifle the release of the findings of the Ethics Committee’s investigation.”
The letter asked Cherrington to “review these documents and any other materials necessary for a thorough and complete evaluation of the ethics investigation of Mr. Evans’s actions.”
The Washington Post reported in August that the documents, supported by interviews with current and former Metro officials, show that Evans threatened the jobs of the agency’s top lawyer and board secretary in an effort to keep secret the fact that the ethics committee found he had committed a violation.
The GOP on Friday welcomed the Democrats’ action but criticized them for what it called a delay in investigating Evans. Republicans have sought to portray the Evans scandal as an example of political corruption in the District and use it to undermine Democratic efforts to win D.C. statehood.
“We’re relieved that Chairman Cummings has finally acknowledged the serious, bipartisan concerns about Mr. Evans’s alleged misconduct,” Russell Dye, a spokesman for the Republicans on the committee, said in an email. “Maybe if he wasn’t so focused on President Trump, he would have taken action months ago — like Republicans did. We hope that the Chairman’s engagement here is just the beginning of robust Committee oversight.”
Connolly’s subcommittee will address the Evans scandal, along with Metro safety issues, at a hearing Oct. 22.