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D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced this week that Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans would not run the public roundtable discussion on the proposed $215 million, sole-source contract to run D.C.’s new sports gambling program and the lottery.
Instead, Mendelson will chair tomorrow’s meeting.
Evans championed bills to legalize sports gambling in D.C. as chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, and he supported the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s push to bypass competitive bidding requirements. Now, with Evans embroiled in an ethics scandal, critics are raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
Evans’ partner in his consulting business, N. William Jarvis, also worked as a lobbyist for DC09, the local company that partnered with Greece-based Intralot to run the sports gambling program and the lottery.
“What was Councilmember Evans’ role in the [lottery] contract?” At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman asks. “Does Mr. Jarvis’ involvement present a conflict of interest that he should have recused himself from the bill?”
Craig Holman, a good government advocate with Public Citizen, says Evans should have recused himself.
“It does raise concerns if his business partner is representing the sports gambling industry, and that draws another conflict of interest, which seem to be rampant for Jack Evans,” Holman says. “The mere fact that Jarvis was a business partner with Evans, he should have recused himself to avoid a conflict of interest.”
Evans’ removal as chair of the upcoming meeting on the lottery contract is the most recent step in what could be a long fall from the top after the release of a 20-page memo detailing several ethical violations during his tenure as chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board. Evans will step down as Metro board chair this week.
The report identified multiple instances where Evans “knowingly” violated ethical rules, in part by soliciting and accepting money to serve the interests of his clients and friends—putting their interests above those of WMATA,” according to the memo from the law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel.
Evans initially denied ethical violations before acknowledging WMATA dinged him for a single violation. He is also the target of a federal investigation into his business dealings, and early on the morning of June 21, federal agents raided his Georgetown home.
In the wake of the Metro memo, some councilmembers have called for a censure and Evans’ removal as chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. Mendelson announced last week that he will recommend Evans’ removal as the chair and will hire an outside law firm to investigate Evans’ conduct. Mendelson has not yet decided on the scope of the investigation, he said.
“I’ve tried to strike a careful balance recognizing that with respect to much of what has been publicized concerning Mr. Evans, there can be more allegations than what is readily known,” Mendelson said.
Evans’ removal and the investigation won’t begin until early July, and the investigation is expected to last throughout the summer.
Daniel Wallach, an attorney who specializes in sports wagering and gaming law, says the District should hold off on voting on the contract until its investigation into Evans is resolved.
“This contract could be the byproduct of some undue influence,” Wallah says. “Probably the more prudent course of action for the D.C. Council is to hit pause on the fast tracking of the sole source contract.”
Wallah acknowledges that he has clients interested in sports gaming generally, but doesn’t represent any of the principle players in D.C.
This week, Evans pleaded for a chance to make his case. “I believe that if my colleagues hear my side of the story, and I respond to all your questions, you will not take any action at this time,” Evans said.
Meanwhile, councilmembers will hear public testimony on contract with Greece-based Intralot to run D.C.’s sports gambling program and the lottery. The proposed contract from CFO Jeffry DeWitt benefits multiple politically connected insiders as subcontractors, the Washington Post first reported.
Mendelson said generally he’s not concerned that legislation passed by the Council could be tainted by Evans’ vote.
“That’s something we have to think about, I have to think about,” Mendelson said, adding “there are a lot of allegations, and we’re now looking at our own investigation and we’ll see if there’s an issue.”
In July of 2016, Evans and Jarvis formed a private consulting firm, NSE Consulting, LLC, according to city records.
Jarvis served as the registered agent and “organizer” for NSE, according to the firm’s business filing. He also worked as a lobbyist on behalf of DC09, according to his lobbyist registration with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
Jarvis’ relationship with Evans was first reported in the local news blog District Dig.
Lobbyist reports indicate that Jarvis met with Evans in 2017 to discuss the lottery. And from July through December of 2018, Jarvis met with Evans and other members of the D.C. Council on behalf of DC09 regarding the “sports wagering bill,” according BEGA. He met with Evans or a member of his staff on at least four occasions throughout that time period, records show.
In an emailed statement, Jarvis writes: “For more than 25 years, I have maintained a friendship with Councilmember Jack Evans. He has been a family friend since we first practiced law together in the 1980s. I have also served in various roles in his campaigns. Throughout my career, in all my business dealings, I have complied with all of the District’s lobbying regulations and operated with complete integrity. Out of respect for the current investigation regarding Councilmember Evans, I will limit public statements.”
Through his consulting firm, Evans made between $100,001 and $250,000 in 2017, according to financial disclosure statements filed with BEGA; in 2018, Evans reported that his firm made him between $15,001 and $50,000.
Emmanuel Bailey, the chief executive of DC09, also hired the law firm Goldblatt Martin Pozen to do some lobbying in 2018, BEGA records show. The firm is one of the subcontractors in the proposed lottery contract. Bailey also partnered with Intralot in a failed bid to operate Maryland’s lottery in 2017, the Baltimore Sun reported.