Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans repeatedly refused to answer questions from fellow lawmakers during a two-hour meeting that he requested in order to address his recent ethical violations.
Last week, Evans asked for an opportunity to tell his side of the story and respond to a 20-page memo detailing his violations of ethical rules while serving as chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board. The law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel, which authored the memo, found evidence of multiple ethical violations, including conflicts of interest and the use of his position for personal or private gain. Metro’s ethics committee ultimately sustained only one violation: a conflict of interest with Colonial Parking, a client of Evans’ private consulting firm.
“I am available starting right now and for however long it takes to answer any questions anybody may have,” Evans said last week, adding that the firm’s memo contains many “mistakes on their face.”
But during the meeting with his colleagues Tuesday morning, Evans dodged question after question about his private consulting firm, NSE Consulting, and his relationships with various clients over the years. He instead sought to limit the inquiry to information contained in the Metro memo.
“A lot of questions aren’t getting answered, and I think there’s a direct line between what we’re talking about in WMATA and what is important to the Council,” Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen told Evans. “The WMATA report itself is replete with this commingling of the concerns expressed at WMATA with actions taken at the Council. So I don’t think they can be segmented off and separated.”
Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie left the meeting before Evans began reading from a prepared statement. Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, and At-Large Councilmember Robert White also left before asking Evans any questions.
“I knew that he would not be answering the types of questions that I would want answers to, and any attorney worth their salt would advise him not to answer questions outside the scope of what he wanted to say,” McDuffie told LL afterward.
McDuffie added that the Council gave Evans the opportunity to speak to them back in March, and since then, he “said things that have prove to be untruthful, so I didn’t want to take any part in whatever he hoped to accomplish today.”
McDuffie said the only context in which he wishes to ask Evans questions is when he’s under oath.
Evans, for his part, began his comments with concerns about the “unauthorized release” of the law firm’s memo, which he said is neither fair nor complete.
Evans said he did not intend to deceive the public or his colleagues about the results of Metro’s investigation, as several councilmembers have charged.
Evans previously declared that Metro had cleared him of all ethical violations. A letter from the head of Metro’s ethics committee contradicted that statement, the Washington Post reported last month. Today, Evans said he “mistakenly believed” he had remedied the ethical lapse by disclosing his relationship with Colonial Parking and its chief executive, Rusty Lindner, who Evans considers a close personal friend.
He disputed the memo’s finding that he worked on Lindner’s behalf to discredit a competing parking company seeking a contract with Metro. He said none of his private clients had business before Metro.
“Colonial never sought any business from WMATA while I was there,” he said. “So there was nothing from Colonial to recuse myself from.”
Evans also asked for his colleagues to hold off on voting whether to remove him as chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue until all investigations into his conduct are complete. Evans is currently the target of a federal criminal investigation. He said during the meeting that he has already sat for an interview with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who chose not to ask Evans any questions Tuesday morning,intends to form an ad hoc committee and hire an outside law firm to open a separate probe into Evans.
“It would be a sort of sentence first, trial afterwards for this to occur,” Evans said. “I appreciate that councilmembers have expressed similar concerns. I believe that when all is reviewed and known, you will see that my actions, while not becoming, are far from that which has been reported and suggested.”