A ma­jor­ity

D.C. COUN­CIL DI­VIDED ON EX­PUL­SION Law­mak­ers to meet Tues­day to dis­cuss is­sue

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY FENIT NIRAPPIL

of D.C. law­mak­ers want to re­move Jack Evans from com­mit­tees, but not the coun­cil, af­ter an in­quiry found re­peated ethics vi­o­la­tions.

A ma­jor­ity of the D.C. Coun­cil wants to cen­sure mem­ber Jack Evans and strip him of his com­mit­tee as­sign­ments af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found re­peated ethics vi­o­la­tions, Chair­man Phil Men­del­son said.

But coun­cil mem­bers re­main di­vided on whether to impose the tough­est pun­ish­ment: ex­pul­sion.

Evans’s col­leagues are sched­uled to meet Tues­day to dis­cuss what ac­tion, if any, to take af­ter a probe found Evans (D-ward 2) used his public of­fice to as­sist pri­vate con­sult­ing clients who paid him hundreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.

Evans has de­clined to at­tend the meet­ing and an­swer ques­tions from col­leagues un­der oath.

Nine of 13 mem­bers have al­ready called on Evans to re­sign, but only three — Elissa Sil­ver­man (I-AT Large), David Grosso (I-AT Large) and Robert C. White Jr. (D-AT Large) — say he should be forced from of­fice. Eleven votes are re­quired for ex­pul­sion.

Some law­mak­ers said pri­vately that they are will­ing to vote to ex­pel but un­likely to take that step with­out a clear ma­jor­ity in fa­vor, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral peo­ple fa­mil­iar with dis­cus­sions. The coun­cil has never ex­pelled one of its own.

“There’s the camp that very much thinks we have en­tered ex­pul­sion ter­ri­tory, and there’s a camp that thinks that’s what elec­tions are for,” said one law­maker

who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss a sen­si­tive matter. “But we can cen­sure, we can pun­ish, we can make it painful.”

In a let­ter to the coun­cil last week, at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing Evans ar­gued against ex­pul­sion, not­ing that Evans is up for re­elec­tion next year and faces a po­ten­tial re­call elec­tion.

“The Coun­cil should not eas­ily or read­ily dis­en­fran­chise the res­i­dents of a ward,” wrote Abbe Low­ell and Mark Tuo­hey, who are rep­re­sent­ing Evans. “That would cre­ate a prece­dent that could eas­ily be ex­panded and mis­used against any­one who lets that oc­cur.”

Evans, the city’s long­est-serv­ing law­maker, is try­ing to halt the re­call elec­tion on the grounds that the qual­i­fy­ing pe­ti­tion does not have enough valid sig­na­tures.

He has not yet filed pa­per­work to seek an­other term, although six can­di­dates are lin­ing up to run for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion in the June pri­mary.

Coun­cil mem­ber Mary M. Cheh (D-ward 3), who is lead­ing the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Evans and has called for him to re­sign, de­clined to say what dis­ci­plinary mea­sures she sup­ports. But she said she was not per­suaded by the ar­gu­ment that only vot­ers should de­cide Evans’s fate.

“Even if he were ex­pelled, it doesn’t mean he can’t run for of­fice, it doesn’t mean the peo­ple can’t rise up and say, ‘No, we re­ally want Jack in that po­si­tion,’ ” she said. “Their vote is not be­ing im­paired.”

The coun­cil rep­ri­manded Evans in March and stripped him of his chair­man­ship of the in­flu­en­tial Fi­nance and Rev­enue Com­mit­tee in July, af­ter he had be­come the tar­get of a fed­eral probe and af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Post ob­tained emails Evans sent on his govern­ment ac­count to law firms in which he high­lighted his abil­ity to at­tract pri­vate clients as a law­maker and as chair­man of the Metro board.

The coun­cil had dead­locked on re­mov­ing Evans from all com­mit­tee as­sign­ments, with Evans him­self cast­ing the de­cid­ing vote.

At a Mon­day news con­fer­ence, Men­del­son (D) said there are enough votes to boot Evans from all coun­cil com­mit­tees. That means Evans would have limited in­flu­ence on bills as they come up for hear­ings and first votes but can still cast fi­nal votes.

“I have said pub­licly that I be­lieve the coun­cil will at the least cen­sure, and I ex­pect a ma­jor­ity of the coun­cil would sup­port re­mov­ing him from his mem­ber­ship of all com­mit­tees,” said Men­del­son, who de­clined to share his po­si­tion.

Coun­cil mem­ber Anita Bonds (D-AT Large), who op­posed re­mov­ing Evans from all com­mit­tee as­sign­ments dur­ing the sum­mer, said she is now in­clined to do so and “might” vote to ex­pel but does not think there’s enough sup­port among her col­leagues.

“We need to do some­thing that would send a very clear mes­sage that this kind of be­hav­ior should not be tol­er­ated by any coun­cil,” she said.

Coun­cil mem­ber Charles Allen (D-ward 6) said he is con­sid­er­ing ex­pul­sion. “There is a very clear pat­tern and prac­tice of fla­grant abuse of our ethics law and we need to take that very se­ri­ously,” he said.

Grosso, who was the first to call for Evans to re­sign, said he would be fine with re­mov­ing Evans from all com­mit­tees if law­mak­ers can­not agree on ex­pul­sion.

“Ex­pul­sion is a very se­ri­ous thing, and we have to be care­ful with it, but I think it’s risen to that level and I would like all my col­leagues to be com­fort­able with that de­ci­sion,” he said.

But Sil­ver­man said the coun­cil needs to take a hard line to send a mes­sage that busi­nesses can­not try to in­flu­ence city govern­ment by pay­ing elected of­fi­cials.

“If we give him a slap on the wrist again, that’s say­ing to mon­eyed in­ter­ests, ‘ This is fine. You can get away with this,’ ” she said. “It’s not the way you do busi­ness in the Wil­son Build­ing, to get money to a leg­is­la­tor. We can­not have that hap­pen here again.”

Coun­cil mem­bers Bri­anne K. Nadeau (D-ward 1), Bran­don T. Todd (D-ward 4), Kenyan R. Mcduffie (D-ward 5), Vin­cent C. Gray (D-ward 7) and Trayon White Sr. (D-ward 8) did not com­ment about Evans on Mon­day.

MICHAEL ROBIN­SON CHAVEZ/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Jack Evans (D-ward 2), cen­ter left, has been found to have used his public of­fice to as­sist pri­vate con­sult­ing clients who paid him hundreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.

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