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During the July 2 administrative meeting when councilmembers asked their Ward 2 colleague about his private clients and their potential business before the D.C. Council, Jack Evans either gave a vague response, said he did not recall, or straight up refused to answer at least 32 times.
When Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, for example, asked Evans to identify his clients during the time he worked for various legal and lobbying firms in the District, and whether he took any action as a councilmember on their behalves, Evans evaded.
“Councilmember Cheh, what I’m here to do today is address the WMATA issues because that is what has been raised as far as the actions the Council wants to take concerning my committees,” Evans said, adding that he wants to answer Cheh’s question at “some point.” But “for me to … answer questions outside of the discussion I hoped to have today would probably not be the best road to go down.”
No kidding. After the release of a 20-page memo detailing Evans’ ethical violations during his time as chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson recommended Evans be removed as chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue and that the Council open its own investigation into Evans’ conduct.
In an effort to stop what Evans calls a “drastic” step, D.C.’s longest-serving councilmember asked for a chance to defend himself. During the two-hour meeting Tuesday morning, Evans criticized the Metro memo as “incomplete, unfair, and misleading,” and insisted his actions as a councilmember have been above board.
But Evans’ answers, or non answers, left his colleagues visibly frustrated and do not appear to have convinced them that he should remain as the finance and revenue committee chair. On Wednesday, Mendelson formally introduced a measure to revoke Evans’ chairmanship. The Council will vote on the measure on Tuesday, July 9, during its final meeting before the summer recess.
In the meantime, here is a look at the questions that Evans would and would not answer.
• The registered agent
The business registration for Evans’ consulting firm, NSE Consulting, lists Evans as its “governor” and Evans’ old friend N. William Jarvis as its “organizer.” Critics have raised concerns about potential conflicts that could arise from their relationship given Jarvis’ work as a lobbyist.
In response to a question from Cheh, Evans said Jarvis is not a “partner” in NSE, nor was he ever.
Evans said Jarvis’ only involvement in NSE was as the registered agent and in helping him “set up the company.”
• The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2019
A bill currently sitting in Cheh’s committee on transportation and the environment would expand transit benefits for people who use some form of transportation other than a vehicle—perhaps something a parking company might not care for.
Indeed, Cheh said her committee received a letter opposing the bill from the Washington Parking Association, of which Colonial Parking is a member. Colonial’s parent company, Forge, was one of Evans’ clients through NSE, and its executive chairman, Rusty Lindner, is Evans’ good friend.
Referring to the bill in her committee, Cheh asked Evans: “Is this, in your option, a case where you should recuse yourself?”
“That I’d have to ask the general counsel,” said Evans, who is a member of the transportation committee.
“You have no view yourself?” Cheh asked.
“I don’t,” he said.
“Well that’s kind of surprising because we’re all expected to know what the standards and rules are and have some kind of sense about when there might be at risk,” Cheh said.
• The financial records
Bonds initially declined to ask Evans any questions, but during the second round, she asked whether a review of his financial records, bank accounts, and tax filings would show deposits from Willco, Forge (Colonia’s parent company), and Pepco.
“No,” Evans said.
• Parking garage tax
Grosso asked Evans why he didn’t recuse himself when the Committee on Finance and Revenue considered the fiscal year 2016 budget support act of 2015, which included an increase in the parking garage tax.
“Given your relationship … with Mr. Lindner at the time and your previous and future employer, why would you not want to avoid even the appearance of a conflict there?” Grosso asked.
Evans explained that Colonial was not his client at the time. But, Grosso pointed out, Lindner and Colonial were clients of both law firms where Evans worked before starting his own business.
So why didn’t he recuse himself?
“Again, David … we’re here today to talk about the WMATA issue, and the decision the Council is looking to make,” Evans said.
• The Pepco/Exelon merger
Evans was the first signatory to an October 2015 letter urging the Public Service Commission to approve the merger between Pepco and Exelon. Evans did not disclose, however, that during the same month, he started working for Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips, a firm paid to lobby on behalf of Exelon.
“That’s not a conflict to you?” Grosso asked.
“Again, David, we’re beyond what I wanted to talk about today,” Evans said. “So I can address that at another time, and I’m happy to address that issue.”
Evans also declined to discuss any work he did or who he worked with during his time at Manatt.
• The Metro ethics officer
Silverman referenced documents showing Philip Staub, Metro’s ethics officer, repeatedly prodding Evans from 2015 to 2018 to disclose more information about his private affairs.
“If the business in which you reported an interest seeks a contract with WMATA, you will have a conflict,” Silverman said, quoting from Staub’s letter to Evans. “So why did you not disclose those relationships when he asked you to do so?”
Evans responded that he was not required to disclose his private business relationships because none of his clients sought to do business with Metro. He added that the ethics officer ultimately signed off on his disclosure documents.
“I complied fully with the disclosure requirements at WMATA,” he said.
“I don’t want to get into a dispute, Jack, but it seems the memos from the ethics officer dispute that,” Silverman said.
• Disclosure of proprietary information
As chairman of Metro, Evans was privy to proprietary information, Silverman pointed out. She asked Evans whether he shared any of that information with Lindner or Ron Paul, the now former CEO of Eagle Bank, another client of NSE Consulting.
But rather than denying that he shared confidential information, again Evans dodged.
“What I can say is what I said in my statement, that Colonial and Rusty never bid on any contract and … never intended to,” Evans said.
“Did you share any information from those meetings with them?” Silverman asked.
“Again, Colonial was not involved at all and didn’t have any contracts,” Evans said.
• The BEGA discrepancy
The Metro memo suggests that Evans made $325,000 per year through NSE Consulting. But, as Silverman pointed out, Evans’ financial disclosure forms filed with the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability show a lower income.
“The D.C. disclosure is correct,” Evans said. He explained that the memo combines three year’s worth of income and presents it as one year’s worth.
“This is a perfect example of the sloppiness in the law firm memo that is just totally false,” Evans said.
• Evans’ relationship with Willco
According to the Metro memo, in 2016 Evans entered into a consulting agreement with Richard Cohen, chairman of the real estate firm Willco.
Allen pointed out that in March of 2017, Evans introduced the Relieve High Unemployment Tax Incentives Act of 2017. And in May 2017, Evans’ finance and revenue committee held a hearing on the bill.
“Did Willco testify at the hearing?” Allen asked.
“Again, Charles, it’s important to stick with the parameters of what we talk about today to the WMATA issues,” Evans said.
In fact, Cohen did testify at that hearing, but Evans did not disclose their relationship.
“Willco is listed in the Metro memo as a client, and according to the information we have, the committee voted on November 29 to move forward the legislation,” Allen said. “Mr. Cohen testified at the hearing in support of it, and then they renewed their contract three days later on December 1st, 2017 with you as a client. Do you want to address that?”
“Uh, no,” Evans said.
• The Digi stock
Evans has acknowledged that he received 200,000 shares of stock in a digital sign company, Digi Outdoor Media, but would not explain how he came to receive them. Evans has said he returned the stock as soon as he received it. He also said he considered taking on Digi’s founder, Donald MacCord, as a client, but later rejected that idea.
On Tuesday, Allen asked if Evans had requested the Digi stocks.
“I don’t remember the specifics around it other than there was an offer to purchase stock, which I rejected,” Evans said.
Evans also said he has not received a stock certificate from any other clients.
When Allen pressed further, asking if Evans thought it was odd to receive shares of stock if he hadn’t requested them, Evans said “I think I’ve gone down this road as far as I can go.”
Evans acknowledged that he circulated a piece of emergency legislation that would have benefited MacCord’s company. He ultimately withdrew the bill, however, when it became clear he didn’t have the votes, the Washington Post reported.
• The specific services for Colonial Parking
Lindner paid Evans $50,000 for his consulting services. But when Gray asked Evans to describe those services, he declined.
“I can’t give you specifics because that would be a breach of confidence,” Evans said.
• The FBI interview
White asked Evans if he’s been interviewed by the FBI. Evans said he “can’t go into that,” but in reading his prepared statement did acknowledge that he sat for an interview at the U.S. Attorney’s Office six months ago. Evans is the subject of a federal investigation and FBI agents raided his Georgetown home on June 21.