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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Ethics probe finds Ward 2 councilmember violated Metro ethics code

Hatchet File Photo
A Metro board ethics investigation found that chairman Jack Evans violated ethics codes relating to conflicts of interest.

A Metro board ethics investigation found that chairman Jack Evans violated ethics codes relating to conflicts of interest, according to a letter the ethics committee released Monday.

Evans, who chairs the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and serves as the Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember, fell under investigation in March after reports surfaced that he used his position for personal benefit. Schulte, Roth & Zabel, a law firm retained during the investigation, discovered “evidence of multiple violations,” but the four-member ethics committee only reached a majority on one violation – a duty to avoid conflicts of interest in Evans’ role on the board.

The Metro board ethics committee’s letter said Evans did not disclose his consulting agreement with Colonial Parking, Inc., a company based in the District, for which Evans was paid $50,000 per year, or his close friendship with the chief executive officer – which he maintained while the company simultaneously sought contracts from WMATA.

“Under the WMATA Compact and the Board of Directors’ Ethics Code, Board Members owe fiduciary duties, including a duty of loyalty, to WMATA and to their respective jurisdictions,” Clarence Crawford, the board’s ethics committee chair, said in the letter.

The ethics committee did not reach a majority on the other violations found by the firm, which included allegations that Evans used his Metro board position for personal gain.

Evans announced last month that he will not seek re-election as chairman of the board, and he told The Washington Post his departure is unrelated to the ethics committee probe.

But Crawford said the ethics committee decided to remove Evans as chair.

“Consistent with these conclusions, the Ethics Committee determined that Mr. Evans would no longer be Chair of the WMATA Board, and would amend his annual disclosure forms from 2016 to the present to list his consulting agreement with Colonial Parking,” Crawford said in the letter.

The ethics committee cannot remove Evans from the board, but the D.C. Council can vote to remove him, according to WMATA regulations and District law.

Evans fell under review last year for violating the Council’s code of conduct. The Council voted in March to reprimand Evans as he faces a federal criminal investigation for his business dealings.

The ethics committee’s letter was released just hours after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan sent a letter to the board, asking for the findings of the investigation to be released to the public. Hogan also called for Evans to resign from the board in a tweet Monday.

“Transparency and accountability, principles that are essential to maintaining public trust, must be preserved,” the governors wrote in their letter. “This can only be achieved through the disclosure of investigative findings.”

Several local advisory neighborhood commissioners signed a letter last month demanding the release of the findings, and members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission unanimously approved a similar letter last week.

James Harnett, a Foggy Bottom and West End ANC commissioner, said in an interview that Evans should resign from the D.C. Council in addition to the Metro board because he breached public trust.

“He should disappear with his millions off into the night and never look back,” Harnett said.

Patrick Kennedy, a Foggy Bottom and West End ANC commissioner running to unseat Evans on the D.C. Council, said the letter details a “severe violation of trust” between Evans and residents. Kennedy said Evans should resign as a member of the Metro board, but he will wait for the criminal investigation to finish before deciding if Evans should resign from the Council.

“It’s not only an apparent conflict of interest, it’s an actual conflict of interest,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know how much brighter the line can be.”

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