Peter Tucker of The Fightback Blog interviews Jack Evans: Councilmember Evans Represents the 1%, Not the Occupiers in His Ward.
October 26, 2011
Dear Chairman Brown, Councilmember Evans, et al.:
Chairman Brown, four-and-a-half more months have gone by since I last wrote you on June 12 about Councilmember Jack Evans’ continuing violation of District of Columbia conflict-of-interest reporting laws. I first wrote you about this matter almost one year ago and this is my fifth letter to you on this matter. I am getting more than a little fed up that you have not even bothered to respond to my last letter, and have apparently done nothing to get Mr. Evans to comply with the law since you responded in March that you would “look into this matter” (the only time you have responded to me). Needless to say, I have not heard from Mr. Evans, either.
The issue is simple and would take you about 15 minutes to resolve if you are indeed serious about putting the council’s activities above reproach. Once again, here are the basic facts: Mr. Evans spearheaded the legislative drive to win approval of legislation providing $206 million in public financing for the Marriott convention center hotel. Then, right on the verge of passage of the legislation, Mr. Evans on five occasions in June and July 2009 suddenly recused himself from voting on the matter. The Examiner newspaper reported on July 1, 2009 that Mr. Evans “recused himself from the vote because his law firm, Patton Boggs, represents Marriott.” (Article here.)
Is it correct that Mr. Evans guided the public financing legislation to the one-yard line and then recused himself — as others carried the ball over the goal line — because the law firm with which he is affiliated represented a party that would benefit from the legislation? If it is correct that his law firm represented Marriott, why did Evans wait until the last minute to recuse himself?
In any event, why does Mr. Evans refuse to comply with District laws and tell us citizens and voters exactly why he recused himself? Why, even as he expresses concern over various ethical issues that have afflicted the Mayor and the Council, does Mr. Evans himself refuse to comply with basic ethics laws that are already on the books? As an attorney, Mr. Evans of all people should recognize his obligation to exercise prudence when it comes to matters of conflict of interest or the appearance of same. He is not above the law, especially laws that specifically apply to top elected officials.
As I have written in previous correspondence, the law is clear: When a council member recuses himself or herself on a matter, D.C. laws — the District of columbia Official Code (DC ST & 1-1106.01), the D.C. Municipal Regulations (Sections 3303 and 3304), and the Council’s own Rule 202 — require that he explain in writing the nature of the conflict of interest (or appearance of a conflict) and the reasons for the recusal. These written statements must be submitted to the Council Chairman, the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) and the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF). As all three offices have told me in answer to FOIA requests that I submitted in mid-2010, Mr. Evans has not submitted a written explanation as required by law to any of those entities.
Stripping the issue down to its basics: Council member recuses himself. Law says council member must explain the reason for his recusal, in writing, to the Council Chairman and to the OCF and the BOEE. Council member fails to file required written explanations for his recusals. To this day, council member remains in violation of the law. Period.
And then, compounding his failure to disclose the reasons for his recusals, why did Mr. Evans un-recuse himself later, months after the final council vote, when the deal ran into a legal snag? When a council member recuses himself, the law makes it clear he is to stay recused — and not hop back into the matter at some future date when it starts to go south. But that is precisely what Mr. Evans did. Notwithstanding Mr. Evans’ recusals and his failure to file written statements explaining those recusals as required by law, Mr. Evans nonetheless continued to involve himself in the convention center hotel matter, even after the public financing legislation was passed.
Press accounts cited in my previous letters to you and others (see below) noted that Mr. Evans worked behind the scenes in 2009-2010 to untangle a thorny legal dispute involving Marriott and JBG Cos. — a dispute that was blocking completion of the convention hotel deal. News articles credited Evans with helping resolve the problem to clear the way for the convention center hotel deal to go forward. A recusal on a matter means “hands off,” but not “jump back in when you have to.” If, in fact, Patton Boggs represented Marriott, then Mr. Evans’ original recusals and his continuing efforts to overcome the legal obstacles facing Marriott constitute about as big an apparent conflict of interest I can think of. (See this article here)
Chairman Brown, in the spirit of your stated desire for ethical reform, I call upon you to do your duty as chairman and require Mr. Evans to comply with the law’s requirements that he submit to you, the BOEE and the OCF a written explanation of the reasons for his recusals. This is an important matter of council ethics, public trust and the public pocketbook that must be resolved now.
The problem with almost every DC government employee is they act like everything is running just fine. It’s not fine and it hasn’t been since at least the 2nd Barry administration. The worst example of this complacency is the Council. Their job is to oversee the 30,000 executive branch employees and the 9 billion dollars they spend each year. The Council has no momentum to improve the profound dysfunctionality. We have a ridiculous employee to citizen ratio. We have a ridiculous police officer to citizen ratio. If you don’t properly oversee the road construction contractor, you have to pave the road more frequently. They can only say the budget has been cut to the bone. Well, you have to fix those agencies who are spending twice as much and using twice the number of people to get much to get as much done as other governments.
And, surprise surprise, the Council is turning out to be just as dysfunctional and corrupt as the people it is supposed to be regulating. All the attention is on $300,000 going to a Councilman or $200,000 going to the Chair’s brother. What about the $50 million that Gandhi let slip out the back door? (Another $400,000 went out his back door recently.)What about Jack Evans refusing to explain why he recused himself on $190 million dollar subsidy vote that benefits a corporation that his lobbying firm represents? Surprise, Marriott is coming back for more. Does anyone have any hope that any combination of the 9 ethics bills floating around the Council will fix the executive branch, the regulators (like the Bureau of Elections and Ethics, the Taxi Commission) or the Council? Or is all Bread and Circuses?
June 12, 2011
Dear Chairman Brown, Councilmember Evans, and other members
of the D.C. Council:
Chairman Brown, on March 27, 2011 you responded to my email
of the same date concerning Mr. Evans’ continuing violation of the District’s
conflict of interest laws and regulations. This violation, as I explain in
detail in the attached emails, was in connection with his June and July 2009
recusals from voting on five separate occasions on the Marriott convention
center $272 million public financing legislation. You informed me then that you
would “look into this matter.” (See your email response below.) Since
11 weeks have gone by and I have heard nothing further on this matter, I wanted
to recontact you and ask: What have you found out? And specifically: Is it
correct, as the Examiner newspaper reported on July 1, 2009, that Mr. Evans’
outside law firm employer, Patton Boggs, represents Marriott? If not, what was
the reason for his recusal?
Examiner Article on topic: D.C. tentatively OKs paying $72M more to finance convention center hotel.
As I said then, and as I repeat now:
“The law is clear: When a council member recuses himself or herself on a matter, D.C. laws (the D.C. Official Code, the D.C. Municipal Regulations and the Council’s own Rule 202) require that he explain in writing the nature of the conflict of interest (or appearance of a conflict) and the reasons for the recusal to the Council Chairman, the Board of Elections and Ethics and the Office of Campaign Finance. As all three offices have told me in answer to FOIA requests that I submitted, that you, Mr. Evans, have not
submitted a written explanation as required by law.” Continue reading