There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans’ political career passed through the pearly gates just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7, surrounded by colleagues, D.C. Council staffers, a gaggle of reporters, and a small but disgruntled cohort of residents.
As Council Chairman Phil Mendelson closed what would be Evans’ final legislative meeting, the fair-haired legislator rose from his seat and handed the chairman a single piece of paper.
“After nearly 40 years of public service to the District of Columbia, I have advised the Board of Elections that I resign my position as the Ward 2 Councilmember on the Council of the District of Columbia, as of close of business on Friday, January 17, 2020,” Evans’ letter said. “I believe Washington, DC to be the pride of the nation and I am proud of the contributions I have made in helping to create a vibrant city. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the District of Columbia and the residents of Ward 2,” it continued.
His career was just shy of 30 years old. Self-serving and compromised ethics are listed as the causes of death.
Some of those gathered in the Council chamber during the legislative meeting were anticipating the final moments of the longest career in the history of the D.C. Council, though the timing came as a bit of a surprise.
“This is a sad day for the Council and for Mr. Evans himself, but despite his excellent career over these many years, it has been marred by such serious compromises of ethics that we had to take this step,” said Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who sat next to Evans on the dais. “It wasn’t a surprise. The exact timing was a surprise. That he would resign before there was an expulsion vote was inevitable.”
In December, an ad hoc committee comprising all 12 of Evans’ Council colleagues hammered the proverbial final nail in his career’s coffin with a unanimous vote in favor of forcibly removing Evans from the Council. Had he not resigned, Evans would have almost assuredly been the first member ever expelled from the body. The final expulsion vote was scheduled to take place on Jan. 21.
By late last year, battles over chronic ethics violations and accusations of corruption had all but ended Evans’ career, at least in the eyes of most D.C. residents. The only thing left for his Council colleagues to do was wait.
In December, Mendelson scheduled a hearing to take place after the Jan. 7 legislative meeting where Evans would have had a chance to defend his career, call witnesses on his behalf, and question those who testified against him. But such a deathbed trial was apparently more than Evans’ career could handle. It opted instead to end quietly on a snowy afternoon. Following its passing, Mendelson offered a few words of optimism.
“It saves the Council from going through more of this time and distraction from the business we ought to be doing,” he said, before Evans’ career was even cold. “I also think this is an important step in restoring the integrity of the institution and the trust of the public. It’s very sad that we’ve come to this point.”
Mendelson previously expressed trepidation over the precedent the Council could set by expelling Evans from the body and encouraged Evans to resign. Now, the chairman can worry no longer.
Evans’ career in D.C. politics, as a previous LL reported, began with a girl. Working as a lawyer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and living in Shirlington, he went on a date with a woman who derided his place of residence as “suburban death.”
Fearing for his romantic life, Evans bought a condo in Dupont Circle and jumped into D.C. politics. He helped establish the Ward 2 Democrats, served as the treasurer for the D.C. Democratic State Committee (on which he currently serves as the elected national committeeman), and was elected to the Dupont Circle advisory neighborhood commission in 1989.
During his tenure on the Council, Evans defended LGBTQ rights, championed the local arts community, helped rebuild a city in financial ruin, and catered to the interests of professional sports teams and big business.
Evans also tried to elevate his career with two unsuccessful mayoral campaigns before settling for a mantle the Washington Post bestowed on him: “Vice Mayor.”
For nearly the entire length of his Council career, Evans pursued a second one as a legal consultant. He worked for legal and lobbying firms, and in 2016 opened his own consulting shop in his Georgetown home. In retrospect, that was the beginning of the end.
It was Evans’ side gigs that ultimately doomed his political career. An investigation that Evans’ fellow councilmembers authorized found repeated violations of the Council’s ethics rules associated with his outside work as well as failures to disclose his private consulting clients. The investigation determined that Evans was paid more than $400,000 “for doing little or no documented work for consulting clients most, if not all, of whom were also ‘prohibited sources,’” meaning they have or could have business with the District or are subject to government regulation.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority conducted its own investigation into Evans, who served as the board’s chair, and found similar ethics misbehavior. D.C.’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability fined Evans $20,000 in August for using his Council staff and email address to send business pitches seeking outside consulting work.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also investigating Evans; federal agents raided his home last summer. Evans has not been charged with a crime.
In its final report, the Council’s ad hoc committee found that the Evans’ shenanigans amounted to a “pattern and practice of sustained and repeated violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct.”
Evans’ career is survived by those of his 12 current D.C. Council colleagues. It was predeceased by the careers of former Chairman Kwame Brown, former At-Large councilmember Vincent Orange, and former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.
After Evans handed Mendelson his resignation letter, the longtime Ward 2 rep made a beeline for the side door and beat feet down to his office as reporters trotted behind him. Evans disappeared behind a locked door without answering questions. The Post reports he left the building at 1:10 p.m.