Tuesday’s unanimous vote by his 12 colleagues recommending his expulsion from the council for repeated ethics violations would seem to make his departure from office inevitable. Other steps must be taken to remove him from office, including a public hearing and a final vote by the full council, which might not occur until next year. The haphazard, seat-of-the pants way Tuesday’s meeting unfolded — best typified by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) expressing surprise that a vote was even being taken — has caused some to wonder whether the council should give more thought to something as drastic and unprecedented as expelling a sitting council member.
What if Mr. Evans were to announce he would not run for reelection? Why leave Ward 2 residents without any representation during a critical period when the city’s budget is being put together? Shouldn’t the decision about Mr. Evans’s fitness for office be made by voters who will go to the polls next year? Such were some of the questions being bandied about the Wilson Building in the wake of Tuesday’s vote. But we think the council’s initial determination that Mr. Evans has, by his own conduct, proved to be unfit for public office is correct.
Investigation by an outside law firm that examined Mr. Evans’s actions over the past five years found him repeatedly using his office on behalf of private clients who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars for no discernible work. He never recognized the conflicts or properly disclosed the payments. Mr. Evans, who is also under investigation by federal authorities, shut down his consulting business and apologized for his mistakes even as his lawyers challenged the findings of outside investigators. He cooperated with the outside investigators but opted against appearing and testifying under oath at Tuesday’s meeting.
Bottom line, we see no defense — or excuse — for his conduct. Indeed, we think the outside investigators were being overly kind to Mr. Evans when they suggested the council’s longest-serving member, who also happens to be a lawyer, acted out of some “misunderstandings” of the rules.
Following the scandal involving former council member Harry Thomas Jr.’s use of public money for private benefit, voters approved a reform allowing the council to remove one of its own for gross misconduct. Under the council’s rules, it may adopt a resolution of expulsion if it finds, based on substantial evidence, that “a Councilmember took an action that amounts to a gross failure to meet the highest standards of personal and professional conduct.”
Mr. Evans’s actions meet that criteria. If he doesn’t resign, he leaves the council with no other choice than to expel him.