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Unless Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans can convince two of his Council buddies to flip, D.C.’s longest serving lawmaker will soon be removed from its legislative body. The final vote, which will likely take place in the new year, is merely a formality.
In an unprecedented move, an ad hoc committee of 12 councilmembers (all except for Evans) voted unanimously in favor of forcibly removing Evans, who outside investigators found to have repeatedly violated the Council’s ethical rules. All the members explained why they voted for expulsion, except for Ward 4’s Brandon Todd, who stayed silent as events unfolded.
Today’s vote is only a recommendation to the full Council. The ad hoc committee will meet once more, on Dec. 10, to vote on a final report on Evans’ actions. Evans will then have a chance to respond to the report during a meeting with the full Council, which needs 11 votes to kick him out.
Evans was expected to testify at today’s committee hearing, where Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the ad hoc committee chair, promised to put him under oath. But Evans, who is currently the target of a U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation, announced he would not face the committee in a letter late last week. Evans’ reversal only angered some of his colleagues further, who described feeling betrayed, used, and manipulated by Evans as he worked to enrich himself and his paying clients.
“This has been an exercise of extreme privilege,” At-Large Councilmember Robert White said, recalling the multiple opportunities the Council afforded Evans to make his case.
A stinging bit of irony for White is Evans’ ardent opposition to Metro fare evasion decriminalization last year. Evans argued that if there is no punishment for breaking the rules, no one will follow them, yet Evans and his attorneys have thrown out multiple arguments against disciplinary action from the Council, White pointed out.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen echoed White, saying “it’s disturbing in my core that somebody can fight so hard to continue the criminalization of people who can’t afford a $2 Metro fare, yet will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars more … trying to get off scot free while those who commit crimes of poverty must be held accountable.”
Allen and White, along with a bloc of progressive councilmembers that includes at-large members Elissa Silverman and David Grosso, along with Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, haven’t been shy in calling for Evans’ ouster.
But others, such as Chairman Phil Mendelson, have been less willing to say so publicly. Mendelson appeared flustered before he cast his vote in favor of expulsion and in an interview afterward described his concern about the precedent that expelling a member for ethical violations could set.
“I think we have to be very careful in how we distinguish why we want to expel here from other situations that we don’t know about where there would be allegations of a conflict of interest,” Mendelson said. “How do we make that distinction? And I’m not prepared to answer that right now, but that’s of great concern to me.”
Asked whether the chairman felt some obligation to speak with Evans about resigning ahead of an expulsion vote, Mendelson said only that he has “had several conversations with Mr. Evans, thank you very much.”
After the two-hour meeting adjourned, LL strolled past Evans’ first floor office to ask if he wanted to comment. His door was locked, and the lights were out.