DC Council Member Jack Evans has been at the center of a corruption scandal for the past few months. Almost a month ago, the FBI raided Evans’ home and he has been under federal grand jury investigation ever since.
Things are only continuing to heat up for the longest serving elected official in the city. Just this week, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), as ranking members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, called for the Metro board to release information about its investigation into Evans’ ethics violations.
Evans’ improprieties illuminate why strong and conscientiously enforced conflict of interest laws are critical for ensuring that our local governments are wired to serve the public interest. Here are just some of the most egregious examples of how Evans’ private interests have crisscrossed his responsibilities as an elected official:
- In 2018, after his private corporation received approximately $100,000 in stocks from Digi Outdoor Media, a digital sign company, Evans helped introduce emergency legislation allowing the company to install signs in the city’s commercial centers. Evans claims to have returned the stock certificate, and the emergency legislation never passed. But the quid pro quo nature of their relationship could not have been clearer – Evans founded his company, NSE Consulting, just as Digi was facing legal hurdles in entering the DC market.
- Last month, an investigation commissioned by the Metro board’s ethics committee revealed that Evans had used his Metro board position to raise an investigation into his consulting client Colonial Parking’s primary rival, Laz Parking. Even though Evans had been making a personal profit of $50,000 a year from his consulting company’s contract with Colonial Parking, he never disclosed this relationship to the Metro board, let alone his friendship with Rusty Lindner, the CEO of Colonial’s parent company. Evans has since resigned from the Metro board.
- This month, Evans again came under fire for championing legislation that would award a $215 million-worth, five-year monopoly on mobile-based sports wagers to Intralot, without disclosing his private business relationship with Billy Jarvis, Intralot’s lobbyist. According to the Washington Post, Jarvis had previously negotiated contracts for Evans’ private firm and its clients. The bill passed last week, and Evans was still allowed to vote. In fact, he cast the critical vote that made its passage possible.
Even aside from these examples, the Metro board’s investigation revealed that Evans had been leveraging his Metro board position to the benefit of prospective law firm employers, facilitating an extra six-figure annual salary on top of his $140,161 DC Council salary.
Perhaps as the icing on top, Evans has been able to use power to protect power in the face of growing movement within the Council to censure him. On July 9, Evans cast the deciding vote towards a 6-to-6 deadlock on an amendment to minimize Evans’ influence by stripping him of all his committee assignments.
If there is a silver lining to be found in any of this, it is perhaps that Evans is likely to face legal consequences for his actions under existing conflict of interest laws. Much more importantly, however, the Evans scandal is a learning moment for us all – conflict of interest laws are important because conflicts of interest actually exist. These laws must always be diligently enforced to ensure our public servants are working for us, and not using their positions to line their own pockets.
This post was written by Jenny Choi, a summer intern at CLC and a rising 2L at Yale Law School