December 5, 2019 at 1:23 pm EST | by Mark Lee
Evans expulsion will end an era
Jack Evans, gay news, Washington Blade
D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) (Photo by jackevans.org via Wikimedia Commons)

For the first time in the 45-year history of local self-governance, 12 members of the city’s unicameral legislature unanimously voted to expel their remaining, and absent, colleague.

There was no fanfare when the vote took place, and scant public awareness of it occurring. In actuality it was only a preliminary action in advance of a formal vote later this month or early in January. The procedures for removing a representative were so unfamiliar, and the outcome so unanticipated, that clarifying the process was discussed following the tally.

Literally no one expected the outcome, with local news reporters and political pundits predicting only an eventual vote of censure. Among a legislative body that commonly knows in advance whether a motion will be approved or not, the members appeared startled at the development. In fact, as several among them observed, it was not certain that a vote would even be taken at the session.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), nonetheless suffered the humiliation of having exhausted the patience and consideration of his colleagues over findings he had violated ethics laws both as an elected official and while serving as chair of the regional transit agency board. Evans is also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Evans is accused of having taken on clients as an independent attorney and consultant, allowed under Council rules, yet failing to recuse himself from voting on matters benefiting at least some of them. Evans, who has not been charged with a crime, maintains he only offered occasional, and largely unspecified, professional advice and that no decisions or votes were motivated by these financial relationships or diverged from his legislative and policy positions.

Evans was previously reprimanded by his colleagues and removed from his position as chair of the now-dissolved powerful finance and revenue committee in March.

A subsequent independent investigation conducted by law firm O’Melveny & Myers and paid for by the Council determined there were 11 instances spanning nearly six years in which Evans breached city ethics rules in inappropriately advancing the interests of his clients while earning about $400,000 from 10 entities.

Evans, pending the duplicative formality of a final vote at a formal meeting, will continue to represent the center-city district spanning a midtown swath stretching across the downtown commercial district and encompassing neighborhoods from Georgetown to the Dupont and Logan Circle areas and including portions of Shaw.

Speculation is strong that Evans will resign his seat prior to that upcoming vote. If he does not, at least 11 members would be required to again vote for expulsion.

It is unlikely Evans would run to regain his seat in either a special election early next year to fill out the final year of his current four-year term or in a possibly concurrent Democratic primary on June 2 for the next one, nor would he be expected to launch a later independent general election campaign.

A six-month-long recall election petition effort that nearly failed to collect the minimum required signatures could offer Evans hope he could win in a crowded contest. Six candidates have already registered to run.

First elected in early 1991, Evans handily won re-election eight times as a politically moderate and business supportive legislator who championed LGBT issues long before everyone else did. He is credited with helping pull the city out of its bleak period of bankruptcy and federal control from 1995 through 2001, fostering the economic growth of the city, shepherding most major downtown development projects involving government participation, and taking a dim view of squandered monies and wasteful spending.

In an era when seeking public office produces fewer credible takers, attracts lesser talents, and often solicits those who’ve done little else, politicians like Evans aren’t likely to frequently appear. Some will cheer that, no doubt, but Washington is better for having had benefit of his service.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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