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A man in a black sweater with salt-and-pepper hair walks into a dimly lit Dupont haunt and gladhands the people he knows. He orders a Champagne Velvet pilsener, and onto the bar he places the grill that, by all indications, used to be affixed to Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans’ car.
The scratched and dented license plate held in place by two rusty screws reads “DC Council Ward 2.”
“How ’bout that?” the man says.
He doesn’t want LL’s readers to know his name, but the man is more than happy to tell the story of how he came to acquire this particular piece of D.C. politics memorabilia.
It was February 2—Groundhog Day—the man begins, and he and his buddy were en route to a nearby restaurant for a 7 p.m. dinner reservation. They were strolling along Massachusetts Avenue NW, not far from the spot where he’s sitting now, when they happened upon what appeared to be pieces of Evans’ trusty Chrysler Sebring.
“We pass all this debris in the road, and I’m like ‘what the fuck?’” the man says. “And I go look over by this tree, and by the tree was the whole front end of the Sebring with this grill and license plate attached.
“I go ‘holy shit,’ look at the license plate,” he exclaims. “I said ‘That’ll be funny. I’ll just stick it over in the bushes.’”
And so the man concealed his new treasure in some nearby shrubs and continued on to dinner where he regaled his friends with tales of his good fortune. The man returned the next morning to retrieve the Sebring’s grill. He stashed it in the trunk of his car, where it sat for several months, almost forgotten.
LL popped by Evans’ office three times this week intending to ask him about what appears to be his second vehicle collision this year, but the councilmember was always too busy. During the first visit, Evans’ flack, Joe Florio, said he didn’t know if his boss had been in another car collision separate from the one LL wrote about earlier this month, but promised to ask.
On the second visit, Florio inquired as to whether LL had any more details about this alleged incident, which LL declined to give, asking instead to speak with Evans directly. Evans was prepping for Tuesday’s legislative meeting and couldn’t be bothered, Florio said, shooing LL away.
On the third try, Florio said Evans is “declining to comment on anything that may or may not have happened in his personal life.”
That a sitting councilmember’s car could be involved in a collision in the middle of their ward, less than two miles from their home, is understandable. Accidents happen. But that a councilmember would be careless enough to leave behind the one piece of irrefutable evidence of that collision, and then refuse to answer questions about it? Well, touché.
By declining to speak with LL, Evans avoids acknowledging that his car may have been involved in two collisions in one year and doesn’t have to answer questions about whether there’s a police report, if another vehicle was involved, and if so, whose fault it was, and whether or not he was impaired in any way.
LL has seen no evidence to suggest that the councilmember was driving while impaired.
But there is some evidence to suggest Evans is a bad driver. In 2014, Evans hit a pedestrian with his car. And for years, Evans has parked the old Sebring with impunity: in front of fire hydrants, in a crosswalk, in the bus lane. Technically, members of the D.C. Council are exempt from parking rules so long as they’re on official business.
Around the time the tipster believes the incident that left Evans’ front end on the side of the road took place, Evans was nowhere close to the legal mess he finds himself in now. In December 2018, just over a month before the alleged collision, the Washington Post reported that Evans received 200,000 shares of stock in a digital sign company before circulating legislation that would have benefited the company. Evans says he returned the stock, and the bill was never formally introduced.
A clearer picture of Evans’ ethics violations came into view throughout 2019. By December of this year, the D.C. Council had heard enough, and all 12 members of the ad hoc committee assembled to evaluate his misdeeds cast a unanimous vote in favor of forcing Evans from the office he’s held since 1991. Evans claims he did not intentionally violate any rules. The final vote is expected in January, and if it goes through, Evans will be the first councilmember to be expelled from the body.
LL’s readers might be wondering why all of this is coming to light now if the incident happened 10 months ago. The man with the Sebring’s grill says he reached out to a couple media outlets back in February, including leaving an anonymous voicemail for LL, who then filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
In March, the Metropolitan Police Department denied the request, claiming that the release of such records would “constitute as a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
When LL questioned how the release of a police report that might reference a sitting councilmember could possibly be considered an invasion of personal privacy, MPD responded that “a search determined … MPD does not have police reports as described in your request.”
For good measure, LL filed another FOIA with MPD this week. He’s waiting for a response.
Shortly after the man called LL in February, he says he left D.C. for a six-week business trip. By the time he returned, the collision seemed like stale news—that is, until Evans’ Sebring appeared in this column two weeks ago. (In that incident, Evans claimed that an Uber driver ran a red light and hit him at the intersection of 28th and M streets NW.)
Upon seeing photos of the beat-up Sebring in the shop, with a trash-bag window and a missing wheel, the man fired off an email: “You don’t know the half of it,” he wrote.
He says he doesn’t keep a close eye on local politics, but he follows the headlines enough to know Evans’ reputation as a business friendly politician and a notorious parker.
The man says he works in finance and might even agree with Evans’ politics. Tony Williams, who championed D.C.’s development boom, was this guy’s favorite mayor, after all.
Even with all the trouble Evans is in now, it’s the parking that really bends the tipster out of shape.
“He’s always parkin’ wherever the fuck he wants, [by] fire hydrants,” the man says. “Every day on P Street he parks right at the stop sign. It’s like ‘laws don’t apply to me.’ There’s a lot of people who think they’re above the law. We’ll see how that works out.”
So why save the busted grill and make the effort to reach out to a reporter now?
“I’m like, ‘you know what, fucker, because you park like an asshole, I hope this causes you a moment’s grief,’” the man says.
He clarifies that he was not an eyewitness to any collision, but from the looks of the debris in the street that evening in early February, he’s confident the Sebring was not a victim of vandalism.
Earlier on the day when the man believes the collision occurred, scores of people gathered in Dupont Circle to see Potomac Phil, the taxidermied rodent brought out every Groundhog Day to help predict how much longer winter will last. Evans, wearing a top hat, is pictured in the middle of photos from this year’s event.
As we reach the bottom of our beers, the man asks LL if he would like to have the grill.
“I was thinking about keeping it, but I’m too old,” he says. “I can’t have shit like this. I don’t want my place to look like a frat house. But this’ll look great in a frat house.”
LL accepted the man’s generous offer, finished his drink, and pedaled home. And that, dear reader, is how what looks like a piece of D.C.’s longest serving councilmember’s car came to be hung in City Paper’s office.