The due date for former Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans‘ first ethics fine has come and gone without a penny paid.
Evans is now delinquent on the $20,000 fine he agreed to pay in exchange for avoiding a public hearing on ethics violations stemming from business pitches he and a member of his staff sent from his Council email address. In the emails, sent to legal and lobbying firms in 2015 and 2018, Evans tried to leverage his connections and relationships made during his tenure as an elected official into a side gig.
The settlement allowed Evans to say publicly that he was not admitting to any wrongdoing and avoided what could have been a long and expensive hearing process. The agreement also states that if Evans fails to hold up his end of the bargain, the D.C. Office of Government Ethics can go after him in D.C. Superior Court for the maximum amount of the fine allowed under the law, $30,000. OGE agreed not to sue Evans until December 2020 if he didn’t make the August deadline.
Evans referred LL’s questions to his attorney, Mark Tuohey, who did not immediately respond to an email and phone message.
Acting OGE Director Rochelle Ford tells LL that either Evans or his attorney have been in touch with the office, though she did not speak with them and could not describe the substance of the conversations. But generally, she says, OGE has been willing to work with people who owe fines, including arranging payment plans.
Evans has another ethics fine of $35,000 stemming from his mixing of his private consulting business and his public office. Evans already paid off $2,000 of that fine, Ford says, and the rest isn’t due until June 2021. The second settlement does not give Evans the four-month grace period before OGE can file an action in Superior Court that his first settlement does.
Although it’s rare for OGE to take rule breakers to court, it did so in 2018 when former Department of Employment Services employee Larry Hicks failed to pay a $20,000 fine. Hicks was in charge of an on-the-job training program that partners with private employers. Hicks enrolled several private employers in the program, including L.S. Caldwell and Associates. At the same time, he was negotiating for, and eventually took a higher paying job with LSC, where he was responsible for managing its on-the-job training program with DOES. He was fined $20,000 for five violations of ethics rules in 2014.
The District sued Hicks in 2018 for non-payment, and in January 2019 a judge ordered him to pay up. Ford says Hicks started a payment plan, but has not yet paid in full.
Evans’ unpaid fines raise another question about his participation in the District’s publicly funded campaign program. Evans received almost $93,000 in public money for his primary campaign to regain his Council seat, from which he resigned to avoid expulsion. The law requires candidates in the public financing program to be square on all fines owed to the District government. There was some debate at the time around Evans’ eligibility to receive public campaign money because he had not paid his fines in full. At the time, he was not late on payment, and the Office of Campaign Finance certified Evans for the program.
OCF spokesperson Wesley Williams tells LL that Evans’ delinquency has no impact on the public funds his campaign received as he is no longer a candidate.
This article was updated with comment from the Office of Campaign Finance.