Friday morning at 6 am, federal agents pounded on the door of Councilmember Jack Evans. They were there with a warrant to search his house. Agents from the FBI spent the next three hours going in and out of his house with boxes of evidence. The entire block was closed off, and Evans spent the entire affair seated in a car across the street. It was surely the lowest political point he’s experienced in his 28 years as Ward 2 Councilmember.
The search appears to have been in response to the revelations of an ethics investigation conducted by WMATA. The law firm investigating on behalf of the ethics committee identified several ethical violations by Evans while serving as chairman of WMATA. After falsely stating earlier last week that he was “cleared” by the committee, Evans admitted that in fact he wasn’t and then resigned from the board. Then the FBI showed up Friday morning.
It is too early to tell what is going to happen for Evans. The DC Council, which has taken a relatively cautious approach so far, stripped him of his coveted chairmanship of the finance committee and announced the formation of an ad hoc committee to investigate him.
But the federal investigation may ultimately go nowhere (as it did against Mayor Vincent Gray). The Council may similarly come short of expelling Evans. A nascent recall election also faces a steep uphill climb to get to the ballot. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Evans comes out of this still standing.
But after 28 years on the Council, Jack Evans’ last act of public service should be for him to walk away. Now.
This doesn’t necessarily mean to resign, although that would suffice. But it definitely means that he should announce now that he will not run for reelection next year. Maybe the feds will make that a moot point. But for now it’s still under his control.
There are already four candidates that have announced their campaigns for the seat. GM knows for a fact that several more individuals are also seriously considering a go. As long as Evans remains in the race, the voters will be torn, forced to choose with the threat that their choice might merely ensure yet another term for Evans.
The last time there was a wide open race with no incumbent for the Ward 2 seat was in a special election in 1991. The former councilmember, the great John Wilson, had vacated the seat upon becoming the Council chairman. Fifteen people ran for the spot, although it ultimately came down to two main candidates, both from Dupont: Jim Zais and Jack Evans.
Evans won by less than 400 votes: 2,857 to 2,471.
He was just 38 years old. Three years later he married his wife Noel. Two years after that they had triplets.
Those triplets graduated from college last year. Jack’s 65. Regardless of what comes of the FBI searching his house, it’s time for Jack and Ward 2 to move on. It’s time for another wide open election.
It’s time for Jack Evans to walk away.