- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A nearly unanimous D.C. Council voted Tuesday to strip embattled council member Jack Evans of his chairmanship of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, which was dissolved and its duties redistributed to other panels.

Only Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, and David Grosso, at-large independent, voted against removing Mr. Evans as chairman.

Earlier, council Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced legislation to authorize the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers to investigate Mr. Evans, who has been embroiled in an ethics scandal for several months.

Under the legislation, which was approved, the law firm will have subpoena power and focus on whether Mr. Evans violated the council’s code of conduct when he performed his official duties as a council member in connection with any outside employment, including his firm, NSE Consulting, since Jan. 1, 2014.

The legislation would redistributed most of the Finance and Revenue Committee’s responsibilities to the Committee on Business and Economic Development, the Committee on Government Operations and the Committee on Facilities and Procurement.

Some lawmakers said that more should be done protect the council’s integrity in the wake of the Evans scandal.

Mr. Grosso, who has called for Mr. Evans to resign, introduced legislation that would remove Mr. Evans from all committees and immediately create an ad hoc committee to oversee the law firm investigating him. He voted against removing Mr. Evans because his proposal was rejected and the Mendelson legislation was insufficient.

Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat, proposed creating an ad hoc committee in September to review the law firm’s findings when the investigation is complete. He said this would make the investigation more independent of the council.

Citing the importance of due process, the chairman said that removing Mr. Evans from all committees would disenfranchise voters represented by the Ward 2 Democrat.

Council member Elissa Silverman, at-large independent, raised concerns about the “unfair” way the chairman dissolved the Finance and Revenue Committee. She called it a “land grab.”

Ms. Silverman also expressed apprehension that Mr. Evans sits on the Business and Economic Development Committee and the Government Operations Committee, which will take on some of the finance panel’s responsibilities. She said no finance panel members were consulted about the redistribution of duties.

Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, asked Mr. Evans whether he planned to recuse himself from the vote on a sports betting contract for Intralot, given recent reports by The Washington Post that Mr. Evans had mischaracterized his business relationship with Intralot lobbyist William Jarvis.

Mr. Jarvis helped Mr. Evans set up his consulting firm and has lobbied the council on a number of issues, including sports betting.

Mr. Evans said he did not plan to recuse himself from the sports betting vote and that Mr. Jarvis had only helped him set up his consulting firm without any compensation. However, The Post reported that Mr. Jarvis offered Mr. Evans detailed legal advice via email.

Mr. Mendelson proposed postponing a vote on the sports betting bill; the council approved that proposal in a 7-5 vote.

By the end of the legislative meeting, the council was to determine whether Corbett A. Price would continue representing the District as a member of the Metro board of directors.

Ms. Silverman introduced legislation last week to remove Mr. Price because he backed false claims by Mr. Evans that he had committed no ethics violations on the Metro board.

The Metro ethics panel, on which Mr. Price served, found that Mr. Evans failed to disclose his business relationship with Colonial Parking, which was seeking a contract with the transit agency.

The council will convene Sept. 17 after its summer recess. The law firm’s investigation is expected to be completed, its findings are to be made public, and the ad hoc committee will be formed to review its findings and make a recommendation, Mr. Mendelson said.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

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