A law firm hired by the council to conduct an independent investigation concluded that Mr. Evans repeatedly violated ethics rules by using his official position to help his private employers and consulting clients. A 97-page report examining Mr. Evans’s actions over the past five years identified 11 instances in which he allegedly crossed ethical lines. It depicts Mr. Evans as having a casual, even cavalier, approach to ethics as he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, did little or no private work for those clients, but helped advance their interests with official actions — all while failing to disclose his connections.
Mr. Evans’s legal team submitted a 67-page response. “The report’s conclusions of rule violations are simply wrong, misapply the law, make up new requirements and reflect a total misunderstanding of the permissibility of legislators with outside employment,” the attorneys wrote, citing an ethics expert who had reviewed the report. The rebuttal points out instances in which investigators appear to cite the record selectively. It argues, with some justification, that there are ambiguities in the rules of disclosure and conduct.
But none of that, to our mind, acquits Mr. Evans. His failure to make timely and full disclosures about the private interests he was representing created unacceptable conflicts. His argument that the actions he took were in the public interest or consistent with his long-standing positions is irrelevant even if true. Taking a vote or setting up a meeting or running interference that benefits someone secretly paying you is indefensible. That Mr. Evans sought to mislead the public by lying about the findings of the earlier investigation by Metro compounds the suspicion.
Mr. Evans, in nearly three decades on the council, has helped make Washington a better place to live and work. His levelheaded approach to finances would be sorely missed on a council not known for its common sense. But at a certain level of misbehavior, mitigating factors are beside the point.
It is troubling that a majority of council members — including Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who heads the ad hoc committee looking at Mr. Evans and who had promised to bend over backward to be fair — apparently didn’t even wait to read Mr. Evans’s response before deciding that he should resign. No doubt it would be easier for them if Mr. Evans simply went away. But Mr. Evans has cooperated with investigators, and if he wants due process, the council should oblige, including with the hearing he says he wants. The council then could, with the votes of 11 of 13 members, expel him.