Photo from Washington Post/Bill O’Leary
Yesterday, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The Council, prompted by an ever expanding scandal, officially voted to reprimand Evans. In addition, while he held on to his position as chairman of the finance committee, Evans’s oversight of tax abatements, the convention center/Events DC, and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities was stripped from him.
A visibly shaken Evans addressed the Council and the public by saying:
I brought embarrassment to this council, to myself and my family. Going forward, I will work tirelessly to restore the trust of my constituents, of my colleagues here on the council and of the residents of the District of Columbia.
This apology is in line with the sparse previous public statements he’s made on the subject. For instance, on March 8th, on the day that news broke that the U.S. Department of Justice had subpoenaed the Council for emails specifically related to Evans’s dealings with donors and major city contractors, Evans spoke to the DC Democratic State Committee. He had this to say:
I want to take this opportunity to say I’ve made some very big mistakes. In retrospect, I would have done things much differently. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to all of you in this room. Earlier this week I apologized to the residents of the District of Columbia, my colleagues on the city council, to my children for embarrassing them. There’s no one more horrified about what I did than I am. And I’m asking for your forgiveness. I know many of you are angry. And I don’t blame you. My goal now, going forward, is to rebuild the trust that I have lost. And I will worked very very hard to regain the trust of the state committee, the residents of the District of Columbia, and everybody I represent in Ward 2.
No one could doubt the sincerity of Evans’s contrition. And it has surely been a grueling several weeks.
But what exactly is he sorry for?
Both these public statements (and the few other statements he’s made which were substantively similar) could be given after just about any public scandal. A politician caught at a brothel would say about the same thing. But Evans wasn’t caught at a brothel. Here’s what he could possibly be referring to when he mentioned “big mistakes”:
- That he used his official Council email address to send out pitches for employment at lobbying firms
- That those pitches appear to be an attempt to profit off his role as councilmember and chair of WMATA
- That in 2016 he received stock worth up to $100,000 and $25,000 in checks from Digi Outdoor Media, a company trying to get permission from the city to install electronic signs in DC
- That after receiving these gifts (and reportedly giving them back), he drafted emergency legislation that would allow the company to install the signs (the bill wasn’t introduced)
- That he bundled several checks worth $2,700 from the CEO of Digi Outdoor Media, Don MacCord, and his associates towards a Hilary Clinton Fundraiser on Nantucket
- That in 2015 after granting MacCord a long sought meeting, Evans immediately solicited him to donate to his constituent service fund
- That that fund is largely used to buy tickets to sports events, not helping the “general welfare” of his constituents, as it is intended
- That Digi Outdoor Media offered his son a summer internship
- That he ushered a law through the Council to help the foundation that a friend and fellow Georgetown resident is trustee of
- That after getting the legislation through the council he solicited this friend for a donation to a benefit he was co-chairing
- That in 2015 he signed a letter urging the Public Service Commission to approve the Exelon acquisition of Pepco, despite the fact that Exelon was a client of the law firm Evans worked for at the time
- That the subpoena from the feds asks for emails from a bunch of companies that Evans has been close to in the past, including Eastbanc, M.C. Dean, and Colonial Parking
So far, the only specific fault Evans has copped to is the first one on this list, namely that he used the wrong email address. And that admission only came via his lawyer. On the same day, he reportedly told Ward 7 Councilmember, and former mayor, Vincent Gray that he “didn’t do anything wrong.”
There haven’t been many long term observers of DC government who have expressed a great deal of shock at the news around Evans. Whispered accusations have percolated for years suggesting that he is far too chummy with business interests and is too willing to do their bidding. Moreover, some have privately worried that with three children in college, and an expensive social life, the salary of a councilmember isn’t keeping up appearances. But a federal subpoena is a whole different thing.
Here’s the thing, the vast majority of the items on that list above were things clearly known to him at the time. If indeed these events were distressing him so much, he sure didn’t show it. Is he really this torn up about using the wrong email address?
Until Evans can articulate exactly what it is that he wishes he didn’t do, it’s inescapable to conclude that the only thing he’s sorry about is getting caught.