February 3, 2011
Dear Chairman Brown:
This is to follow up on my November 28, 2010 email to you, to which you have not yet responded. My purpose in writing you again is to call your attention once more to an appearance of conflict of interest matter that has been lingering for 19 months regarding Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and the Marriott convention center hotel public financing legislation. Specifically, I call your attention again to Mr. Evans’ failure to comply with the laws requiring full disclosure of the reasons for his recusals on five occasions in June and July 2009. As you and other council members all take an oath to uphold the law, I trust that you will give this matter your immediate attention and require Mr. Evans to comply with all requirements of the D.C. conflict of interest laws.
Despite my repeated requests to former chairman-now Mayor Vincent Gray, the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) and the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) to perform their duties and require Mr. Evans to comply with the law, all of those offices have ignored my requests. I would hope — in the spirit of transparency, adherence to the law, and conflict-of-interest-free good government — that you (unlike your predecessor) would take appropriate action to require Mr. Evans to comply with provisions of the D.C. Official Code and the D.C. Municipal Regulations, as well as D.C. Council Rule 202. As an attorney and member of the D.C. Bar, Mr. Evans has an additional duty to adhere to that organization’s ethical standards.
My concerns regarding this matter are stated in some detail below in the letters and emails that I exchanged with Mr. Gray’s office, as well as with the OCF and the BOEE, over a period of months last year. Also enclosed is my November 28 email to you. Here in a nutshell, though, is the gist of this troubling matter:
* In June and July 2009, Mr. Evans on five occasions recused himself from voting on the $272 million public financing package for the Marriott convention center hotel (twice in committee mark-up sessions, and three times in subsequent Council votes). Theretofore, Mr. Evans had been the leading proponent of the legislation and had spearheaded the public financing package right up to the point of final action — and had given no indication up until then of any issue necessitating his recusal. A July 1, 2009 article in the Examiner newspaper reported that Evans had recused himself “because his law firm, Patton Boggs, represents Marriott,” the primary entity to benefit from the legislation. If accurate, this is about as big an appearance of a conflict of interest as could be imagined in this deal.
* When a council member recuses himself or herself because of an actual conflict of interest or the appearance of one, the laws, regulations and rules are quite clear. In the language of Municipal Regulations 3303.1, 3303.2 and 3303.3, a council member who recuses himself “shall prepare a written statement describing the following: (a) The matter requiring action or decision, and (b) The nature of the potential conflict of interest with respect to such action or decision” and then “shall deliver a copy of the statement to…The Board of Elections and Ethics, in care of General Counsel…The Director of the Office of Campaign Finance” and the “Chairman of the Council.” Mr. Evans, now some 19 months after his recusals on the convention center hotel legislation, has not filed such a written report. (I filed Freedom of Information requests with Chairman Gray’s office, the OCF and the BOEE –and all informed me that no such written statement had been filed by Mr. Evans.) He is NOT in compliance with the law.
* Notwithstanding Mr. Evans’s recusals and his failure to file written statements explaining those recusals, Mr. Evans nonetheless continued to involve himself in the convention center hotel matter, even after the financing legislation was passed. Press accounts cited in my previous letters to Chairman Gray, the OCF and the BOEE noted that Mr. Evans worked behind the scenes in 2009 to untangle a thorny legal dispute involving Marriott that was delaying the convention center hotel project. A recusal on a matter means “hands off.” It does not mean you can recuse yourself on a particular matter one day, and then float in again several months later on the same matter to keep the deal going — the way Mr. Evans did.
Given this set of facts, it is clear what must be done: As council chairman, you have the duty and authority under the law to see to it that council members comply with laws specifically directed at council members. You must require Mr. Evans to obey the law and submit to you and the OCF and the BOEE the written statements explaining his June and July 2009 recusals on the convention center hotel public financing legislation.
I trust that you (unlike Chairman Gray) will do me the courtesy of responding to my questions regarding this matter. Mr. Gray and Mr. Evans also failed to reply to inquiries about this matter in 2009 from the heads of two respected D.C. organizations, the Committee of 100 and the Federation of Citizens Associations. This, despite the Council’s own “Code of Conduct” on ethics, openness and conflicts of interest posted on the council’s website. These are no small matter to the citizenry, as evidenced by the February 2 front-page article in The Washington Times, calling attention to potential ethical problems for council members regarding outside compensation. The citizens of the District of Columbia have a right to know under the law, and in the interest of good government, exactly what Mr. Evans’s appearance of a conflict of interest involves in the Marriott convention center hotel financing legislation.
Since this matter has been lingering so long, I look forward to hearing from you at an early date.
cc: Brian K. Flowers