Jack Evans Credit: Darrow Montgomery

A “mistaken understanding” of the D.C. Council’s ethics rules is costing former Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans a lot of cash.

Evans agreed to pay a $35,000 fine in a settlement with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, the largest fine the board has ever levied. Evans agreed to pay $2,000 by June 30. The rest is due by June 30, 2021.

With the $20,000 fine that Evans still owes BEGA from a separate ethics investigation, today’s fine brings his total tab to $55,000. 

The most recent settlement marks an end to a long anticipated investigation into the disgraced former councilmember’s mixing of his private consulting business and his Council office. The investigation initially began in January 2018, and was put on hold at the request of federal investigators.

The board approved the settlement during an executive session on Friday, May 22, the same day early in-person voting in the primary election began.

In January, Evans resigned from the Ward 2 seat he held for nearly 30 years when his former colleagues were one vote away from expelling him from the body. He filed to run to regain his seat about a week later and currently faces seven opponents.

Evans is running using D.C.’s public campaign financing program but will not be eligible to receive public money if he is delinquent on the BEGA fines. His $20,000 fine is due in August.

In reaching its decision, BEGA adopted the conclusion of O’Melveny and Myers, the law firm the Council hired to investigate Evans’ private consulting work. That investigation found that Evans’ made about $400,000 as a private consultant but could not explain what work he did for his clients. Evans has disputed the firm’s analysis that his work for paying clients violated ethics rules but did not dispute the underlying facts.

In the BEGA settlement, Evans lays out five mitigating factors, including his incorrect belief that as long as he held ongoing or long-term support for a particular legislative or executive issue, and where his actions benefitted the public or an entire industry rather than solely a paying client, he was clear of any potential ethics issues.

“[Evans] also believed that having a financial interest in a matter before the Council was not problematic under the ethics rules unless the Councilmember altered his position after acquiring the financial interest,” according to the settlement. 

The government ethics office included some mitigating factors of its own, which include “consideration of [Evans’] extensive tenure on the Council, legal training, original support for the Ethics Act, and his obligation to take ‘full responsibility for understanding and complying with the letter and spirit of all laws and regulations governing standards of conduct for District government employees.’”

In a press statement, Evans writes: “The BEGA matter was the last one involving all that I already addressed with the Council and others over the last two years. It raised no new issues, confirmed any violations on my part were based on my misunderstanding of the rules and not an intention to violate them, and that I have cooperated with every inquiry. I am glad to close this last chapter of all pending matters with the Council, BEGA and OGE. As I have said often, I am sorry for any mistakes I made and hope D.C. residents will allow me to continue to work for them in solving the many issues D.C. will have as we try to get back to normal lives soon.”

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen weighed in with a tweet saying the settlement does not resolve Evans’ ethics troubles and that the Council is “prepared to continue the investigation into his pattern & practice of ethical violations that we cut short last year to go ahead [and] vote to expel him.”

Patrick Kennedy, who is running against Evans in the primary, called Evans’ statement “wordsmithing that continues to evade personal responsibility.”

Kennedy took special notice of the “exhausting-sounding list of investigative entities that have closed ‘all pending matters’ [which] doesn’t include the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Federal agents raided Evans’ home last summer, but he has not been charged with a crime.

Jordan Grossman, another primary challenger, called Evans’ conduct “disqualifying.”

“Jack Evans STILL refuses to take responsibility for his shameless corruption!” Grossman tweeted.

During the Friday afternoon session, the ethics board also dismissed another complaint alleging Evans broke rules by voting on his own disciplinary resolutions.