Dear Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Gray, Grosso, McDuffie, Nadeau, Silverman, Todd, R. White and T. White:
The Sierra Club calls on you to expel Jack Evans from the DC Council.
There is substantial evidence that Mr. Evans is corrupt. For years, he has abused his position of public trust, collecting at least $400,000 since 2014 from various business interests in return for secretly working to advance government policies to benefit the business interests paying him.
The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest environmental advocacy organization, with 3,000 dues-paying members in DC. We believe corruption is the enemy of good public policy, including environmental policy. Under the influence of those paying him and those from whom he sought payment, Mr. Evans advanced policies harmful to the environment. As well, Mr. Evans used the Sierra Club’s name in an attempt to advance his personal financial interest, listing his Sierra Club membership as a connection he could leverage.
The Sierra Club calls for the DC Council to expel Mr. Evans for the reasons explained below.
- The DC Council report on Mr. Evans found that: "Evans, on three occasions, took official actions to influence or attempt to influence support for the Pepco-Exelon merger while negotiating for employment (and later after gaining employment) with the law firm Manatt, who actively represented Pepco and Exelon in connection with the merger.” Despite this, according to the report, “Evans wanted ‘blanket assurance that if any Pepco Exelon matter comes before the Council[,] he will not have to recuse.’”
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups in DC opposed the Pepco-Exelon merger. Since the merger, Pepco-Exelon has funded misleading advertising about climate change and weakened legislation to reduce DC’s emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
Before his employment with the law firm Manatt, Mr. Evans was employed by the law firm Squire, with the report finding: “when Evans was still at Squire, a draft pitch from Squire to Exelon in October 2014 identified Evans as the leader of a proposed 'Advocacy Team' to assist with the merger; Evans met with Exelon’s general counsel the same month; he arranged a meeting with Exelon’s vice president of corporate relations and Mayor Muriel Bowser in December 2014; invited Exelon’s GC to Squire’s holiday party; and a draft letter to Exelon’s general counsel proposed that the company hire Squire in December 2014. By January 2015, Evans had left Squire and was negotiating employment with Manatt; he identified Exelon in his business plan as a potential client he might be able to bring to Manatt.”
Mr. Evans’ activities violated DC Council ethics rules, the report found: “Evans’ actions to attempt to influence the Pepco/Exelon merger from January 2015 to October 2015 violated the Code’s conflict of interest provisions.” The report found that: “During this time, Evans personally and substantially participated on several occasions in issues related to Manatt’s representation of Exelon and Pepco.”
The report found that a Manatt lobbyist emailed one of Mr. Evans’s DC Council staffers an “opening statement” for Mr. Evans to read at a hearing on the Pepco-Exelon merger held by the Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee on January 28, 2015. According to the report, Mr. Evans “read the talking points at the public hearing on January 29, 2015, stating, ‘Pepco is doing a good job in improving electric reliability here in the District, but I believe that the improvements will be further accelerated if the merger of Pepco and Exelon is approved.’”
After being hired by Manatt, Mr. Evans, “signed and submitted a letter to the D.C. Public Commission in support of the merger on October 16, 2016 – days after Evans started at Manatt. The first sentence of the letter states: ‘We write to express our hope that the Public Service Commission (the ‘Commission’) will approve the merger of Pepco and Exelon.’”
In addition to supporting the merger as a public official, Mr. Evans worked behind closed doors to advance the interests of Exelon and Pepco in other ways. In the summer of 2015, a councilmember proposed a budget amendment to provide funding for a study examining whether the public should seek to municipalize its private utilities. According to the report, while Mr. Evans’ employment negotiations with Manatt continued, the law firm’s lobbyists “strategized with Evans’ office about introducing a new budget amendment that would divert funds from the study.” According to the report, Mr. Evans worked with Manatt lobbyists to convince another councilmember to propose an amendment diverting funds for the municipalization study for what a Manatt lobbyist described as “obvious reasons.”
- Mr. Evans was secretly paid by Colonial Parking, which since 2012 has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Forge Company, while he used his DC Council position to block a proposed tax increase on commercial parking lots.
Meeting DC’s climate commitments and sparing our city from the worst effects of climate change will require that DC increase the cost of auto commuting so that it is commensurate with the environmental and climate damage it causes. Despite this, Mr. Evans prioritized his paying clients over his constituents, many of whom live at sea level and are on the frontlines of the worst effects of climate change.
According to the report, Mr. Evans had a close relationship with parking lot magnate Russell C. “Rusty” Lindner, who described himself as Mr. Evans’ “alpha supporter” because he was an early financial backer of Mr. Evans. The relationship also enriched Mr. Evans personally, according to the report: “From February 5, 2003 until November 2017 – with the exception of an eight month interlude between January 31, 2015 and October 5, 2015 – Evans financially benefited from his relationship with Lindner through his law-firm employment at Squire and Manatt. The Squire relationship existed from February 5, 2003 until January 31, 2015. After leaving Squire, Evans submitted to Manatt a plan for how the services he offered would generate business for the firm, which highlighted Forge as a client that he could bring to Manatt. Forge’s Manatt engagement lasted from February 18, 2016 until November 2017.”
In exchange for Mr. Lindner’s financial support, Mr. Evans used his position on the DC Council to depress parking prices in DC despite the climate and air quality impacts. According to the report: “In April 2015, Mayor Bowser – in proposing the next year’s budget – recommended that the Council increase the tax rate applicable to commercial parking operations from 18 percent to 22 percent. Lindner adamantly opposed any increase in the tax rate because it would negatively impact his business, and persistently urged Evans and his office to prevent the increase.”
The report states that as chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee, Mr. Evans implemented a measure “to keep the parking tax rate at 18 percent.” The report found “no documentary or testimonial evidence indicating that Evans disclosed his then-existing financial interest.”
- Mr. Evans’ actions are not just bad for good public policy and environmental policy in the District, but they also undermine the cause of DC Statehood. The Sierra Club strongly supports granting DC residents the full rights of U.S. citizenship by admitting DC as the 51st state. When the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on H.R. 51, a bill that would grant statehood to DC, two members of Congress who do not support statehood requested that Mr. Evans testify, writing in a letter: “In light of allegations that Evans exploited his official position with the DC government to engage in self-dealing for personal financial gain, Members must fully understand the nature and extent of Evans’ action to properly assess and consider H.R. 51.”
The Sierra Club does not agree that Mr. Evans’ actions justify the denial of voting rights to more than 700,000 DC residents. We do however believe that for the DC Council to allow Mr. Evans to continue to serve would send the message that DC is tolerant of corruption, further undermining the cause of statehood.
- On January 31, 2018, Mr. Evans used DC Council resources, including DC Council staff and email, to solicit employment using his public position to advance the interests of paying clients. The document emailed by his DC Council staff from a DC Council email listed the Sierra Club among his “personal associations and membership.”
The Sierra Club is disappointed that Mr. Evans listed his membership in our organization as a qualification in his business proposal. Mr. Evans did not request, nor would he have received, the Sierra Club’s permission to use his membership in our organization to seek a job lobbying the DC government on behalf of his paying clients.
The Sierra Club appreciates that most DC Councilmembers have called on Mr. Evans to resign. Mr. Evans has publicly stated he will not resign. As such, the only way for the DC Council to resolve this issue is to expel Mr. Evans.
Allowing Mr. Evans to continue to serve on the DC Council calls into question whether the DC Council is worthy of the public’s trust. If public confidence in the DC Council is to be restored, the DC Council must expel Mr. Evans immediately.
Chair, Sierra Club DC Chapter