D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), one of the Council’s strongest supporters of the LGBTQ community during his 29 years in office, announced on Tuesday that he will resign from the Council effective Jan. 17.
Evans announced his plan to resign in a brief letter he hand delivered to Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) minutes before the start of a special Council hearing called to discuss the Council’s plans to expel Evans for alleged ethics violations and to give him a chance to defend himself before a final expulsion vote scheduled for Jan. 21.
After reading Evans’s resignation letter, Mendelson adjourned the hearing and announced the hearing would resume on Jan. 21. He did not say what, if any, action the Council would take upon the resumption of the hearing.
“After nearly 30 years of public service to the District of Columbia, I have advised the Board of Elections that I resign my position as the Ward 2 Councilmember on the Council of the District of Columbia, as of close of business on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020,” Evans states in his letter.
“I believe Washington, D.C. to be the pride of the nation and I am proud of the contributions I have made in helping to create a vibrant city,” Evans states in his letter. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the District of Columbia and the residents of Ward 2.”
Many of D.C.’s most prominent LGBTQ activists over the past several months joined community leaders from across the city in calling on Evans to resign based on multiple ethics related allegations that Mendelson said the Council had confirmed through an investigation conducted on its behalf by a law firm.
Monica Nemeth, former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, expressed what appeared to be the sentiment of many LGBTQ activists over Evans’s downfall. The Stein Club passed a resolution in July calling for his resignation.
“I’ll say I have mixed feelings about it,” Nemeth told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “I wrote him and the Council at the time we passed the resolution in July asking him to resign,” she said.
“Essentially what I said was Jack was a stalwart ally of the community and for that we are totally grateful,” Nemeth told the Blade. “We recognize that and we will never forget how wonderful he was to the community,” she said.
“And it really is very sad what has happened in his situation,” she said in referring to revelations disclosed in the Council investigation that Evans violated multiple ethics rules when he allegedly used his office to assist companies that paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.
Evans has denied any wrongdoing and has pointed out that he did not break any laws despite a separate pending investigation by the federal government in which the FBI raided his house and confiscated documents.
“We feel he’s been in office for nearly 30 years and for 25 of those years he has really been a monumental leader in this city,” Nemeth said. “He really was instrumental in bringing this city back from the brink,” she said. “It’s really, really sad that he has fallen like this. I’m not sure what happened and why.”
Nemeth was referring to Evans’s longstanding support for local businesses and the city’s economic development efforts, including projects related to the Washington Nationals Stadium, the Walter Washington Convention Center, and the downtown arena where the city’s professional basketball and hockey teams play.
Rick Rosendall, a longtime Ward 2 resident and former president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, wrote in a Washington Blade column in October, “How do you tell an old friend that it’s time for him to go?”
Rosendall recounted Evans’s long list of legislative accomplishments on LGBTQ related issues going back to when he led efforts to repeal D.C.’s antiquated sodomy law that made it illegal for consenting adults to have same-sex sexual relations.
“So urging Jack to move on need not be motivated by personal animus,” Rosendall wrote in his October column. “This is about the greater good. Please, old friend, do the right thing for Ward 2 and the District and bow out.”
Evans’s resignation announcement this week creates a new wrinkle in the campaigns of six candidates, including gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner John Fanning, who last year entered the race for Evans’s seat in the city’s June 2, 2020 Democratic primary. All six candidates have expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights.
LaDawne White, a spokesperson for the D.C. Board of Elections, told the Blade on Tuesday that the board was scheduled to meet on Jan. 8 to discuss the scheduling of a special election to fill the Ward 2 Council seat following Evans’s resignation. White noted that the winner of the regularly scheduled Ward 2 election in November would not take office until next January, thus a special election is needed to fill the seat until that time.
Most if not all of the six candidates running in the June primary were expected to run in a special election that was expected once it became known that the Council was about to expel Evans if he did not resign.
In addition to Fanning, the candidates running in the Democratic primary include Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy and community activists Jordan Grossman, Daniel Hernandez, Kishan Putta, and Yilin Zhang.