Bad to worse: Apology needed in ethics debate

Photo by The Georgetown Dish
Councilmember Jack Evans
Councilmember Jack Evans
As the D.C. government creaks under the weight of ethics accusations, internal bickering and rumors of potential action by outside  authorities, Councilmember Jack Evans found himself ensnared publicly in two unfortunate and somewhat related ethics questions this week.  The first concerned his recusal in the summer of 2009 from committee and Council votes on the almost $300 million in public money to help the construction of a convention center hotel to be operated by Marriott International, Inc. Evans, however, did not file the explanation for the recusal as required by District law at that time. This action, or lack of action, became the subject of a website and other public notices by John Hanrahan, a former Washington Post and Washington Star investigative reporter, as well as former Dupont Circle Citizens Association president Rob Halligan over the last few months.  
 
This past week, Post reporter Mike DeBonis asked Evans about the lack of explanation, which led Evans to produce a letter from David Zvenyach, General Counsel for the D.C. Council, for DeBonis and Alan Suderman, City Paper’s Loose Lips.  Zvenyach said that there was no conflict because the Patton Boggs law firm, Evans’ employer outside the Council, did not represent Marriott.  When DeBonis and Suderman noted that this absolving letter was written in April, 2011 and asked Evans why he had not released it sooner, Evans said, according to Suderman: "This is an opportunity I've been waiting for.  To respond without responding directly to Hanrahan, who I think is a f… idiot."
 
Ouch. Putting aside for the moment the use of invective against citizen leaders like Hanrahan and Halligan -- and another use of unnecessary profanity that insults standards of civil discourse -- many city leaders and observers are similarly, and deeply, concerned. The question of part-time Councilmembers having outside employment that leads to possible conflicts was discussed by Colbert I. King in his respected Saturday column in the Washington Post.  King referred to an Evans complaint that “punishments for violating campaign disclosure requirements are too lenient,” namely that the $5,000 fine is just a “cost of doing business."
 
Is this what public service in the District has come down to?
 
As Councilmember Evans heads into campaign season with a new challenger, Fiona Greig, we strongly suggest that the 20-year veteran follow remedies suggested by King and start to remove the stain of what is becoming the “D.C. Council of Corruption,” according to the longtime Post columnist.  Why not become the champion for real punishment for ethics law violations and for adequate staffing to enable our election board and other local enforcement agencies to be effective? (Meanwhile, King's recommendations include much stronger medicine.)
 

Perhaps more importantly, we call on our Councilmember, Jack Evans, to apologize to John Hanrahan.  We understand the frustration of working in an ethically-challenged environment, where even baseless accusations may generate continuing, unwanted and -- sometimes undeserved -- attention.   But this kind of language directed at a citizen who has worked with integrity on behalf of many citizens and community causes is beneath the dignity of the office. In this environment, the burden of proof is on Councilmembers to demonstrate their integrity -- even to go the extra mile -- repeatedly and patiently. Splattering the public discourse with profanity does no more than degrade an already difficult public discourse in which respectful, attentive engagement is critical. An apology is needed on behalf of you, the council and the citizens you represent.

 

0 Comments For This Article

Seeking full and fair disclosure

If you wish to raise the level of discourse, perhaps ceasing anonymous attacks might be a good start. Would it be too much to ask who wrote this piece?

Anonymous

"citizen leaders like Hanrahan and Halligan."

Uhhhhh - you mean washed up, former, wanna be leaders? These guys do not represent the neighborhood, but rather their own self-promotion in a failing effort to stay relevant.

CCCA Prez

Do you kiss your wife and kids with that filthy mouth Jack?

Another example of how Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, Evans2012.org, views constituents and civic leaders not in his crony network or his paid off (with cash or chicken dinners) ANC commissioners, supporters, and other Clowns.

CCCA Prez

Jack should also make his daily office schedule public on his new web site so his constituents can know know who he really spends most of his time serving — whether that's constituents or crony slum lords like Warren Williams and Shiloh Baptist Church in Shaw, the jury is still out.

All these characters can redeem themselves, but with each passing day it looks more and more like they are only interested in continuing business as usual.

Anonymous

No apology necessary. John Hanrahan is what Evans called him. And so are many so called hack reporters. He should not apologize.

A

DC Native

Evans calling someone a "f...ing idiot" -- who, by all accounts has been harassing Evans and is the same person who has been dead wrong about the conflict-of-interest issue for months and months -- might not be something taught in a manners class in Georgetown, but...this is not something we should be spending much time on. Come on.

How about focusing on Councilmembers who don't pay their taxes, use their non-profits to pay for cars, use their campaign contributions to funnel money to their families, etc.

Evans' use of a bad word is the least of our concerns.

Rob Halligan

CM Evans' may have held the opinion letter for far more serious reasons than his feelings toward John. Stay tuned...

Anonymous

There still is no explanation as to why Evans recused himself from the issue. Apparently, it did not involve the Patton Boggs firm, since they did not represent Marriott.

Anonymous

So why did Evans recuse himself from the issue, since there was no problem with his work at Patton Boggs?

Barrie Daneker

It's about time these council members spoke up. I say Jack let them have it. When you face the craziness of some people in the District who obviously have their facts wrong, someone needs to call them out on thier bullshit. My advice is Jack keep it up and let these fools who don't check thier facts and blog bullshit have it. I say call him a f'ing idioit again so others will get their act together before they take to the internet and airways with bullshit.

lloyd shirlington

what else is evans to do other than recuse himself? he said over and over that he did it out of caution, which is the smart thing to do. how is this even a story?

regarding hanrahan (and halligan, for that matter), evans was dead on. these guys have absolutely nothing better to do. they have personal vendettas against him that go back 20 years. they sit around at night and think about jack evans. how truly sad.

we have bigger problems in this city than to keep hammering away on this. he recused himself, people!

LTJ

Jack Evans has done more for Ward 2 and the City than anybody else who has the nerve to criticize him. Residents don't forget that it was Jack, Lind Cropp, Natwar and Tony Williams who saved this city from financial ruin. Shaw and Ward 2 have come along way in the last 20 years. What have his critics done that even compares to his record or body or work. These folks are nothing more than political assassins and cowards. Real hacks. Who wrote this piece?

LTJ

PMM

Awaiting the Rob Halligan comment, you can bank on it, accusing every single person who simply disagrees with him of being Evans staffers or pushing "PR" or "spin". You are not allowed to simply disagree with these people. You are not. You must be on the take or paid off or some such thing. Classic disease symptom of city "activists" who lost their grip along the way. It looks like more than a few people get the drift of these people though. Evans recused himself. He's not exactly a saint but when I look at DC, the developers the gadfly types love to hate seem to have turned a frog into a prince of a city. Tell me what we would have if this council seat had been given to a Hanrahan or a Halligan. Vision? Puh-lease.

shirley ann white

The DISH is losing credibility by publishing this anonymous piece of trash.

Trouble Helmsley

Oh wow. I cannot believe the senior member of City Council would be so juvenile and disrespectful. What sort of leader is he? I could understand if DC were a third world country. Evans should apologize to everyone. He is an elected official, he should have the grace and dignity of an elected official. Not acceptable Mr Evans. TH

Anonymous, Too

Evans’ Law Firm Had Ties to Convention Center Hotel Deal, After All
Posted by Alan Suderman on Oct. 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Last week, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans released an opinion from the D.C. Council's general counsel, which gave Evans a pass for not filing a written statement as to why he'd recused himself during votes in the summer of 2009 on public financing for a new convention center hotel. Turns out that pass may have been premature.

Critics of Evans started a website last year calling on him to file a written explanation for his recusals, as is generally required by city law when councilmembers have potential conflicts of interests. At issue was whether Marriott International Inc., which will be operating the hotel once it's built, was represented by Patton Boggs, the influential lobbying firm that employs Evans. The District has put $272 million in public funds towards the 1,167-room hotel.

Evans said last week that Patton Boggs did not represent Marriott, but that he had recused himself out of an "abundance of caution." Patton Boggs is a giant firm, and Evans said it would have been his "bad luck" for there to be some previously undiscovered connection between the two firms. With no connection between Marriott and Patton Boggs, the council's attorney said Evans didn't need to file a written statement because there was no potential conflict of interest. Evans also told LL last week that there was no connection between the two developers building the hotel, Quadrangle Development and Capstone Development.

Turns out there may have been a potential conflict, after all.

After LL blogged about the general counsel's opinion last week, he got a copy of a 2009 email from Evans' office showing there was more to the story. The email says Evans recused himself because Patton Boggs represented ING, which calls itself a "global real estate investment manager." (The email was presumably written by Evans' former aide Jeff Coudriet; it was sent from Evans' council address, but is signed "Jeff." Coudriet recently passed away.)

When the financing for the deal stalled, and a plan to fund the entire project with public funding went nowhere, the developers turned to ING for help increasing their share of the project's financing. According to Washington Business Journal, ING's involvement allowed the developers to increase their investment from $135 million to $320 million.

From a Post report on the deal:

Evans said the prospect of full public financing appears to have motivated the developers into putting up the equity so they could gain more of the profits. "It caused everyone to focus, step up and get it done," said Evans, who added that he hopes the council will vote on the proposal next month so construction can begin in the fall.

Evans told LL today that Patton Boggs represented ING in the convention center deal, but their involvement doesn't change anything. "There's no connection between ING and the city," says Evans, noting that ING's connections were with the developers, not the District, and therefore the opinion of the council's general counsel still applies and no written statement from Evans was necessary.

LL's no lawyer, but when the city and developers go in on a deal together like the convention center, and Evans has ties to parties on both sides, that seems at the very least like a potential conflict of interest.

But Evans didn't want to debate the issue: "I'm giving you my statement, and that's it."

Rob Halligan

I moderate the DupontForum; we’re polite and people post under our own names over here. Yes, I put 8 hours into a website hoping to shine some sunlight on what appears to be a major issue. Are people afraid of transparency? Whoever is anonymously insulting me should really think about what you are doing.

Anonymous Daniel R. Stiles

Rob Halligan doesn't like it when people don't use their names.

Except when the Dish bylines that way.

Cognitive dissonance much?

If it's kosher for the Dish (and I think it is, just as you don't see a name or even a couple names on a paper's lead editorial) then it's kosher for commenting. Put on big boy pants and deal with it. Besides, Halligan is one to talk about being respectful in civic discussions. He's blanket insulted anyone who's simply disagreed with him for years on issues big and small. Everyone who doesn't see eye to eye with him is PRing, phony spinning, disingenuous, paid off, la la la. Talk about the need for polite disagreement to your mirror, Mr. Halligan. Evans recused himself. He slipped up here, yes, there is no question of that. He lowered himself with the insult, made it a little more of a story than it needed to be. Let's move on. The decision is Mr. Evans or his opponent. That's the choice. For me, the incumbent recused himself, fine. The opponent, I'd like to hear more about her. Watergate this isn't, and yes I do have a problem with the Halligan/Hanrahan and others around town style of obsessive-compulsive city activism. Forest, trees, they don't get it. Evans goofed here but the man builds stuff while these other people burn the community well.

Rob Halligan

PR 101 - Deflect and Pivot. PR 102 - Include a Kernel of Truth in the Lies and Hope They Bite.

Andrew, I can't even joke that you are Smithers anymore. You're now more like Lee Atwater.

Fred Zigler

"Jack Evans has done more for Ward 2 and the City than anybody else who has the nerve to criticize him. Residents don't forget that it was Jack, Lind Cropp, Natwar and Tony Williams who saved this city from financial ruin. Shaw and Ward 2 have come along way in the last 20 years. What have his critics done that even compares to his record or body or work. These folks are nothing more than political assassins and cowards. Real hacks. Who wrote this piece?

LTJ"

LTJ: GET REAL !!! It sounds like you're a cheerleading recipient of the Ward 2 community slush fund. How much did your group GET from Jack? And Linda Cropp saved DC? HAHA. It was Vincent Orange Jr and Tony Williams who corrected the direction of DC Finances.

Anonymous, Too

"Whoever is anonymously insulting me should really think about what you are doing."

As a constituent of CM Evans, you might want to make him aware that his "supporters" are treading on very thin ice in his name.

Can't imagine that he'd want a "Sulaimon Brown" issue on his plate along with everything else he's going to have to explain.

Who Should Apologize?

Greig Campaign Calls Potential Donors 'Homosexual' and 'Super Wealthy'

The characterizations were included in an report accidentally filed with the Office of Campaign Finance.

* By Lauren Sausser
* Email the author
* 3:18pm

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A D.C. Council candidate included a list of fundraiser targets in a report filed with the city's Office of Campaign Finance, and the list identified a potential donor as "homosexual" and another as "super wealthy."

The report was filed by Fiona Greig, the Democrat who is trying to oust longtime D.C. Councilman Jack Evans from his Ward 2 seat.

The list, an Excel spreadsheet, was included in an exploratory committee report filed electronically by the Committee to Elect Fiona Greig on Sept. 30. Greig said she was not aware of the mistake until several weeks later.

“This was my first filing,” Grieg said. “I included an … extra spreadsheet that was not supposed to be there.”

A campaign volunteer compiled the list during a rapid-fire brainstorming session that included Greig. “I know for a fact that I didn’t use those words,” she said. “I take full ownership for the content. … I can see how they would be offensive.”

The spreadsheet lists the names of 44 individuals and businesses that the Greig campaign identified as potential donors, and it included a column for comments about them. The man referred to as a homosexual was a Greig coworker. Another man is labeled as “glover park, super wealthy.”

"(The labels) really, really don’t reflect my personal views and how I view these things," Greig said during a telephone interview. "I’m deeply concerned. I feel really apologetic. ... I’m very supportive about the LGBT agenda."

The list is no more than "chicken scratch notes taken by a volunteer," she said.

It includes misspellings and identifies some family friends as potential contributors. The list mentions an event at the Oval Office. The meaning of some of the comments is not clear.

The volunteer who wrote the list, one of Greig's supporters, remains part of the campaign team, Greig said.

Wesley Williams, the public affairs manager at the Office of Campaign Finance, told Patch on Friday morning that the list had been deleted from public record. Later, Williams said the spreadsheet had only been deleted from an amended version of Greig's exploratory committee report, but could be obtained by requesting a copy of the original report.

Patch submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the original report.

Greig denied asking the office to amend her file. She said she re-submitted the intended report in October when she realized her error.

anonymous

Uh, sorry to say this isn't about anyone but the current ward 2 CM... he could easily clear things up with explanations and evidence to back it up, but he won't because he can't.

He's a creature of the (very corrupt) system and there's no escape.