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It’s only fitting that on the day Republican congressmen made a ridiculous request for sworn testimony from former Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans in order to evaluate the District’s suitability for statehood, Evans would counter with an even more ridiculous request of Ward 2 residents: Vote for me.
About a week after Evans resigned in order to avoid expulsion from the D.C. Council seat he held since 1991 (and before he’d even received his final paycheck, apparently) he has filed to run again. According to the D.C. Board of Elections, Evans filed to run in the June 2 primary as well as the June 16 special election that he forced when he resigned. The special election is estimated to cost taxpayers $1 million, according to a Council spokesperson. LL could not immediately determine how much a new Ward 2 license plate would cost if Evans wins.
Evans announced his resignation Jan. 7 and remained in office until Jan. 17, the last business day before the Council was set to vote to expel him from office. He would have been the first D.C. councilmember voted off the body. Instead, he became the first to resign in lieu of expulsion.
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Last year, multiple investigations found that Evans had trampled ethics rules for years. As chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Evans prioritized the interests of his private consulting clients over those of the public transit agency, investigators found. A $250,000 investigation ordered by his Council colleagues found that he made hundreds of thousands of dollars from private clients despite doing no documented work and violated more than a dozen conflict of interest rules. Evans has disputed the investigations’ findings.
Evans is also the target of a U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation, and federal agents raided his house last summer. He has not been charged with a crime. Evans did not return LL’s phone call seeking comment Monday evening, but some of his former (and possibly future) colleagues did.
Chairman Phil Mendelson, who just yesterday appeared on a stage alongside Evans and Mayor Muriel Bowser at D.C.’s Lunar New Year festivities, says he is “disappointed” with his former colleague’s decision to run again. He tells LL that Evans mentioned during Sunday’s celebration that he planned to file for election, but would not go into more detail about their conversation.
“It’s too soon after the Council was on the brink of expelling him, and I don’t think this helps restore the public trust in the Council,” he says, later adding, “I see the media liked his crashing the parade.”
While Mendelson was unwilling to speculate about any actions the Council could take if Evans were to win the election, At-Large Councilmember Robert White was not.
“I think the options are calling for his resignation or reformation of the ad hoc committee,” White says, referring to the 12-member Council committee that cast the preliminary votes to expel Evans. “But unfortunately I now need to think through this ridiculous scenario to make sure Jack Evans is held accountable for his actions in office and also does not further tarnish the reputation of the city.”
White calls Evans’ choice to run “selfish and frankly embarrassing to the city.”
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chaired the ad hoc committee, echoes Mendelson’s disappointment and wishes Evans’ young campaign the worst of luck.
“I hope his effort isn’t successful,” she says. “It wouldn’t be good for Ward 2, it wouldn’t be good for the District of Columbia, and it certainly wouldn’t be good for the Council.”
Cheh is unsure whether the ad hoc committee’s findings and its vote to recommend Evans’ expulsion could still stand if Evans won the election, but she notes that in a crowded field of Ward 2 candidates and with Evans’ name recognition, he might have a shot.
Evans enters a field of six primary candidates, some of whom released statements on his decision shortly after the news broke.
Jordan Grossman says Evans’ “shameless corruption” disqualifies him from serving on the Council. Patrick Kennedy says Evans’ decision “represents the height of arrogance, entitlement, and denial about how deeply he has trespassed on the public’s trust.”
Asked about Evans’ predicament with federal law enforcement, Cheh says it would be unethical for a prosecutor to make any public statements about their investigation before taking official action, as Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray is all too aware.
“However, I think the way these things do work is if you’re out of the public eye, and you’ve resigned, there probably is less interest in you because you’re not sitting there in a position of power having committed wrong acts,” Cheh says. “But if you want to get back in, they might say ‘Oh really? Maybe we should look at this guy a little more closely.’”
She adds: “Mr. Evans really hasn’t learned any lessons from his. For him it’s just an inconvenience that he happened to be facing expulsion. That’s not the appropriate way for him to view what’s happened.”
This post has been updated to include the correct cost of the June 16 special election. It is expected to cost about $1 million, not $200,000 as previously reported.