DC Council Votes Unanimously To Reprimand Its Longest-Serving Councilman

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Helen Lyons Contributor
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WASHINGTON — The D.C. City Council voted unanimously yesterday to reprimand Democratic Councilmember for Ward 2, Jack Evans.

The reprimand strips Evans of some of his responsibilities on the Committee of Finance and Revenue but keeps him in place as its chairman. The longest-serving D.C. councilman has been involved in a number of ethics scandals this year regarding the abuse of his public office, including at least one that prompted an ongoing federal criminal investigation.  (RELATED: DC Democrat Took Stock From Friend’s Company, Pushed Legislation To Directly Benefit It)

In an additional legislative meeting called for the sole purpose of issuing the reprimand, Chairman Phil Mendelson acknowledged the growing complaints about inaction regarding Evans’ violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct.

District of Columbia Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp (C) speaks with Council member Harold Brazil (L) … (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“Some members have argued that we should do more,” Mendelson said, “and I am proposing more with an amendment that would remove from Mr. Evans jurisdiction two agencies that he has especially enjoyed working with.” (RELATED: 23 Members Of DC Democratic State Committee Call For Resignation Of Jack Evans)

Apart from the Committee of Finance and Revenue, Evans’ responsibilities regarding the Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Sports Authority were revoked. He still maintains oversight of the D.C. Lottery and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), however, where he also serves as chairman of the board.

Mendelson said that he would not remove Evans from the chairmanship primarily because the Council has never before done so without an investigation, but when Independent At-Large Councilmember David Grosso asked if further punishment were possible (including the formation of an ad-hoc committee to conduct an investigation), Mendelson said that it was “not out of the question.”

“That Mr. Evans sought private gain was indisputable,” Mendelson said, “but what was the gain? To get a job, or to sell the influence of his office?”

Jason Binn, CEO Niche Media/Capitol File Magazine, Michele Seiver and Jack Evans … (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Niche Media)

Evans, who kept his head down during much of the opening remarks, gave an emotional response, saying after a pause, “In retrospect, I would have done things differently.”

“I have brought embarrassment to this Council, to myself and my family,” said Evans. “The punishment is severe. The Arts and Humanities [and] the Sports Authority have been something I have relished on this Council for the entire time I’ve been here. To lose the ability to operate in those areans is, to me, very painful.” 

In explaining the reduction of responsibilities, Mendelson indicated that he re-referred targeted tax abatement bills out of Evans’ committee and will not refer any more such legislation so long as investigations continue.

“The public will not trust that he is not doing more special favors on matters he can control through his chairmanship,” said Mendelson.

The continuing ethics scandals for the D.C. City Council come just as the District seems to be making headway with its statehood efforts.