The D.C. Council unanimously voted to expel Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) on Dec. 3 because of ethics violations, marking the first time the council has ever decided to remove a councilmember.
The vote comes after nine of Evans’ fellow councilmembers called for his resignation following the release of a Nov. 4 report detailing 11 ethics violations by Evans since 2015. The report, which was compiled by a law firm the council retained to independently investigate Evans, alleges that Evans used his council position to promote the interests of clients of his consulting company. Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker, was not present for the vote on his removal.
Despite the unanimous vote, Evans’ expulsion is not yet definite. The ad hoc committee that voted for Evans’ expulsion Dec. 3 will need to meet again Dec. 10 to vote on an official expulsion resolution, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) wrote in an email to The Hoya. The council will then need to hold a hearing during which Evans would be invited to testify before it can formally vote to remove him. The date of the hearing has not yet been set.
At the Dec. 3 meeting, each councilmember detailed their reasons for supporting Evans’ expulsion. Evans’ actions showed a lack of respect for fellow councilmembers and were an embarrassment for the council, according to the opening statement of Councilmember Robert White (D-At Large).
“Right now, the only person in this city who doesn’t know that Mr. Evans must resign is Mr. Evans,” White said in his opening statement. “If he cannot bring himself to resign, then we must vote to expel him. We have no choice based on what we know.”
Evans’ actions have betrayed the public’s trust, according to Councilmember Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), who was himself accused last spring of an ethics violation when he attempted to influence a Washington, D.C. State Board of Education election.
“It would be impossible to move forward in the current situation,” Todd wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I believe anything short of expulsion is unacceptable and would send the wrong message to District of Columbia residents.”
Before the Dec. 3 vote, Ward 2 constituents began a separate campaign for a special recall election, which would allow voters to remove an elected official from office before that official’s term has ended.
A petition submitted by Ward 2 Citizens Recall, a group of local residents campaigning for a recall election of Evans’ seat, was rejected by D.C. election officials, after Evans filed a challenge to the Board of Elections on Nov. 29. The petition garnered 5,588 signatures, exceeding the threshold of 4,949, but was rejected because signatures were deemed invaild.
The rejection of the petition proves that Ward 2 residents are not in favor of his ouster, Evans said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“One can conclude the voters in Ward 2 do not want me to leave office and others should take note of that,” Evans said.
Despite the efforts of Ward 2 Citizens Recall, constituents should not have to be responsible for handling Evans’ mistakes, according to Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large).
“I know Councilmember Evans’ lawyers have made the argument that we shouldn’t expel him, and that we should let the voters decide, either in the upcoming recall or the primary. I couldn’t disagree more,” she wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We shouldn’t pass the buck, making the voters do our work for us. Previous Councils didn’t have this power to expel, but I imagine this tool was put in place so we could act in a case like this.”
The Dec. 3 vote is an appropriate measure to regain public trust in the council, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
“Throughout this investigation, I have called on the Council to be fair and urgent in their considerations, but to act quickly to regain the public’s trust in the Council as an institution,” Bowser wrote in a Dec. 3 statement. “As a former member of the Council and now Mayor, I stand by them as they make these very difficult decisions.”
Six Democrats are currently running in the primary set for June 2, 2020, to replace Evans, who has yet to announce a run for reelection. The candidates are Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners Patrick Kennedy (D-2A), Kishan Putta (D-2E) and John Fanning (D-2F); former Obama administration staffer Jordan Grossman; and political newcomers Daniel Hernandez, a former Marine, and Yilin Zhang, who is active in the League of Women Voters’ D.C. statehood campaign.
The Ward 2 district includes both the Georgetown neighborhood and Georgetown University’s main campus. Although Georgetown University College Democrats will not take a position on the Ward 2 race, they support the council’s vote to expel Evans, according to GUCD chair Rebecca Hollister (COL ’21).
“The evidence is overwhelmingly against him, and it seems that he is worse than just a bad representative–he is corrupt,” Hollister wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I will be interested to see how the primary now plays out; it is a very crowded field and many of the candidates have a lot to offer. At this point the candidates need to just convince Ward 2 voters that electing them won’t lead to more of the same.”
Expulsion is the only adequate measure to punish Evans’ behavior, according to Cheh.
“Mr. Evans has betrayed each and every one of us–his colleagues, the government, and the residents of the District of Columbia,” Cheh wrote in a Dec. 3 tweet. “I don’t think there is any other action that we can fairly take other than expulsion. Nothing short of that would be proportionate to what he’s done.”