IT IS likely that the D.C. Council next week will formally reprimand member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) for alleged violations of the city’s code of conduct. Also likely is that the expected move will fail to satisfy many people. Supporters of Mr. Evans see a reprimand as a rush to judgment; critics of the long-term council member view it as a meaningless slap on the wrist. The council would do better to forgo pro forma action in favor of an investigation into Mr. Evans’s conduct.
D.C. Council members held a closed-door meeting this week to discuss the growing controversy that surrounds Mr. Evans, the city’s longest-serving council member who is also chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed documents related to Mr. Evans’s private legal and consulting work in what appears to be a widening probe; The Post’s Steve Thompson revealed that Mr. Evans sent out job solicitation offers, using government email and staff, to private law firms, touting his experience and connections as an elected official.
During Tuesday’s closed-door session — boycotted by three council members who objected to the secrecy — Mr. Evans reportedly offered an apology and said he will end his outside work. The meeting, we are told, was brief, with only one question asked by D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) about who were Mr. Evans’s clients. Mr. Evans answered. Some of the names of the clients have become public as a result of the federal subpoenas.
D.C. law allows council members to hold outside jobs, and the financial disclosure form filed by Mr. Evans last December checked the box of between $50,001 and $100,000 in income to his firm, NSE Consulting. The form asks for identification of any client with a contract with the District or who stands to gain a direct financial benefit from legislation pending before the council. None are listed on Mr. Evans’s form, and he further certified he had “not received or been given anything of value . . . based on any understanding that my official actions or judgment or vote would be influenced.”
Over the years, Mr. Evans has made many contributions to the city and to Metro. But in recent days, he has offered only vague apologies for unspecified mistakes as questions have mounted. He needs to fully address the concerns and be willing to answer questions about his conduct. Whom did he work for? What was the nature of the work? No doubt his lawyer may have advised him not to comment during the federal investigation, but Mr. Evans has a responsibility to the city he serves as well as a right to fair process.
The council should either press for action from the city’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, which deferred to federal authorities once they became involved, or establish a process to do its own fact-finding.