The D.C. Council voted 10-2 Tuesday afternoon to remove Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans as chairman of its Committee on Finance and Revenue, albeit in a roundabout way. In the additional legislative meeting, members approved the Council Period 23 Rules and Investigation Authority Amendment Resolution of 2019, which, among other things, eliminates the Committee on Finance and Revenue and assigns the agencies that fall under its purview to different committees.
Among those agencies, the Combat Sports Commission, Destination DC, D.C. Lottery, Multistate Tax Commission, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer will move to the Committee on Business and Economic Development, chaired by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. The Real Property Tax Appeals Commission will move to the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, chaired by At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds. Perhaps most surprisingly, oversight of WMATA and the Metro Safety Commission will move to At-Large Councilmember Robert White’s Committee on Facilities and Procurement, not Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment.
Evans remains a member of the business, transportation, and government operations committees. An amendment advanced by At-Large Councilmember David Grosso would have removed Evans from all committee seats, but it failed, 6-6. In the 10-2 vote over the finance committee chairmanship, Evans voted to retain his leadership role, and Grosso voted against the resolution to register his displeasure with the structure of the investigation. Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, who is believed to be welcoming a baby, did not attend today’s meetings.
Cheh, Ward 1 CouncilmemberBrianne Nadeau, and At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman opposed Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s decision to immediately reassign the finance committee’s agencies. Their amendment to delay the reassignment until after the summer recess also failed.
Silverman suggested that the reassignment of agencies may have been tied to votes in favor of the sole source sports betting contract that the Council also voted on at the legislative meeting. “The reorganization,” she said from the dais, “seems to reinforce the public’s concerns that everything has a price at the Wilson Building, even committee assignments. A decision has been made behind closed doors to dissolve Finance and Revenue and redistribute its portfolio to certain members. That decision was made without the input of all Finance and Revenue committee members. That decision was also made without the input of the entire body, only certain members.”
In response, Mendelson declared himself “a lot offended.” As the meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and was actually gaveled at 4:10 p.m., stretched into the early evening, Mendelson became increasingly short-tempered. He sighed loudly into the microphone and repeatedly mentioned how tired he was.
The approved resolution also allows Mendelson to appoint the law firm O’Melveny & Myers to investigate Evans’ conduct, beginning on January 1, 2014 and specifically related to the formation and potential conflicts of interest of NSE Consulting LLC, Evans’ private firm. It grants the law firm subpoena power and permission to conduct investigation activities while the Council is in recess.
Legislators called for Evans to be removed as chair after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s ethics committee found that he had violated its code of ethics. Evans, who left the WMATA Board of Directors last month, remains at the center of a federal law enforcement investigation into his private consulting firm.
Ahead of the vote, Evans released a statement acknowledging his colleagues’ decision. “As the process continues, I want to say that I have enormous respect for the Council of the District of Columbia, and I know that each Councilmember is acting out of a sincere appreciation for her or his responsibility, and that is how it should be,” he writes in the statement sent to reporters Monday afternoon. “I understand my responsibility as an elected official in accepting the review that has been occurring and decisions being made, although with sadness and with humility. I will constantly work to reaffirm with my own constituents that I understand the high calling of being an elected official and that I will devote my time on the Council to the redemptive challenge of their good will.”
The legislative body formally reprimanded Evans earlier this year for soliciting private business using his Council email account, but Grosso wants a more extreme punishment. In a statement Monday afternoon, he called for Evans to resign from the Ward 2 seat. “Given new revelations over the weekend of Councilmember Evans’ dishonesty, I believe the public trust in Councilmember Evans is irreparable and it is in the best interest of the Council and the residents of the District of Columbia that Jack Evans resign as the Ward 2 Councilmember,” the statement says.
Evans’ path forward remains unclear. For the first time in years, he will not join the District representatives traveling to New York later this week to meet with bond agencies. The Washington Postreported that many Evans allies, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, have distanced themselves from the embattled councilmember in recent weeks. An effort to recall him is underway, but should Evans voluntarily resign, his seat would be filled in a special election.
Mendelson said Tuesday that he expects to name members to the ad hoc committee that will review the law firm’s investigation in early September.
This article has been updated to correct the name of one of the agencies added to McDuffie’s committee. The Combat Sports Commission was mislabeled in legislation as the Combat Force Commission. It has been under McDuffie’s purview since January.