Jack Evans said Thursday that he will resign from Washington’s Metro board next week, after a legal memo became public saying he “knowingly” violated ethics rules to help friends and clients rather than serve the interests of the transit agency.
Evans announced his resignation in a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson after four and a half years on the board, including three and a half as chairman.
He did not offer an explanation, but the decision came within hours after The Washington Post published a confidential 20-page memo from the outside law firm that investigated Evans for the board’s ethics committee.
It also came a day after Evans reversed himself and acknowledged that he had committed an ethics violation and had agreed to step down as board chairman — although not from the board altogether — as a condition of ending the ethics probe.
“I’m proud of the work the Board has done to lead the agency through some of the most challenging years in its history — the system is in a better position today to serve riders,” Evans said in the letter. “On June 27th, at the conclusion of my term as Chairman, I will resign from the Metro Board of Directors.”
Mendelson (D) accepted Evans’ resignation and declined to comment further.
“The chairman believes Council member Evans chose the correct action,” Mendelson spokeswoman Lindsey Walton said.
Evans will leave in scandal, as the legal memo provides extensive detail about what it described as Evans’s multiple ethics violations. These included failures to disclose his consulting and personal relationships, and to recuse himself from Metro “transactions, discussions and issues” where he had a potential conflict of interest.
“Our investigation uncovered a pattern of conduct in which Evans attempted to and did help his friends and clients and served their interests, rather than the interest of [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority],” the memo said. “The evidence uncovered through our investigation demonstrates that Evans’s ethical violations occurred not by accident, but ‘knowingly.’ ”
Evans “solicited and accepted money” from people who were “actual or potential WMATA vendors, with business interests that intersected with WMATA interests, and could be served by certain actions or decisions of WMATA or its Board,” the memo said.
Evans’ lawyer, Mark Tuohey, said earlier he had not seen the memo, but noted that the four-member ethics committee concluded that Evans committed only a single violation, a failure to disclose a conflict of interest with Colonial Parking, a major District firm.
The memo fueled calls from elected leaders in Virginia, Maryland and the District for Evans to resign from the Metro board. Three D.C. Council members, David Grosso and Elissa Silverman, both independents elected at large, and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At-Large) urged him to step down Thursday, with Grosso saying Mendelson should remove him if Evans (D-Ward 2) refused. Grosso and Silverman also revived their calls for the council to conduct its own investigation of Evans, its longest-serving member.
The board’s ethics committee initially had not intended to release any of the results of the investigation. The information might not have become public had Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and other officials from the two states not written to the ethics committee demanding that it disclose the results of its probe. There is no formal report because the committee avoided putting anything in writing. Additionally, no written minutes were taken at the ethics committee meetings.
“I have said for years that Jack Evans is unfit to serve on the WMATA board, and he has finally heeded our calls to resign,” Hogan tweeted. “We shined a light on this corruption, but there are still many questions that need to be answered. Maryland provides more than 35% of Metrorail’s operating subsidy — more than any other jurisdiction. We will continue to demand full accountability and transparency for Marylanders and our entire region.”
Said Northam: “WMATA and its leadership must be held to the highest ethical standards — that’s why I called for the results of this investigation to be publicly released. Going forward, there should be a formal process in place to handle potential ethics violations.”
In March, after The Washington Post reported that Evans repeatedly offered to use his influence and connections to help clients of potential employers, the council reprimanded Evans but did not pursue its own probe of his business ties and official actions.
On Thursday, U.S. Reps. Gerald E. Connolly and Don Beyer, both Virginia Democrats, echoed calls days earlier from Hogan for Evans’ resignation. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who has repeatedly defended Evans, was mum Thursday.
Apart from the Metro ethics investigation probe, Evans’ legal problems arise primarily from questions over whether he used his official positions to solicit business for his private legal and consulting work.
A federal grand jury is investigating his relationships with clients. The D.C. Council has formally reprimanded him, and he faces a recall vote in his ward.
The resignation ended a four-day whirlwind of revelations that started when the chairman of the ethics committee, Clarence W. Crawford, released a four-page summary of the committee’s findings Monday in response to the requests from Maryland and Virginia officials.
Crawford said the committee found Evans committed a single violation of Metro’s ethics code. It also said he agreed not to seek reelection as board chair as part of the agreement to close the probe.
Evans initially insisted that the committee had cleared him of any violation and that the decision not to seek reelection had nothing to do with the investigation.
Evans reversed himself in an interview Wednesday night with The Post, in which he acknowledged Crawford’s account was accurate on both points.
The change in Evans’ story raised questions about his honesty as well as his ethical conduct as Metro chair.
“Mr. Evans lied about the findings of Metro’s ethics investigation into his behavior while serving as Metro’s Board Chairman,” Connolly said. “Jack Evans is a walking billboard for the ethically challenged.”
Grosso said Evans “has lost all credibility.”
The memo was written by lawyers Adam Hoffinger and Jeffrey F. Robertson of the firm Schulte Roth & Zabel, which conducted a six-week investigation of Evans.
The memo is dated May 20, so it appears to have been written after the board’s ethics committee closed its investigation of Evans on May 7.
The memo says Evans took “an active role in parking issues” at Metro without disclosing that he was receiving $50,000 a year in a consulting contract with Colonial Parking, and had a close relationship with its chief executive, Rusty Lindner.
It said Evans tried to “oust” LAZ Parking, a Colonial competitor, from a contract it had with Metro. When the law firm interviewed Evans for seven hours as part of its investigation, Evans “acknowledged that these efforts were prompted by Lindner and were based on information that Lindner provided to Evans for the purpose of discrediting LAZ,” the memo said.
Evans “shared [Metro] communications regarding parking issues, ridership data and other information with Lindner, Colonial’s CEO, on a regular basis, sometimes virtually contemporaneously with the events themselves,” the memo said.
The relationship between Lindner and Evans was first reported by District Dig.
Colonial has said previously that its contract with Evans’ consulting firm included a provision requiring recusal on any matter that might create a conflict of interest. Company officials were reviewing the memo Thursday and did not immediately provide further comment.
A spokeswoman for LAZ, Mary Coursey, said in an email this week before the memo became public that Colonial Parking is LAZ’s major competitor in the Washington area.
“LAZ Parking was unequivocally unaware of the business relationship between Colonial Parking and Mr. Evans,” Coursey said. She did not immediately provide comment on the memo.
Evans also sought assistance from Metro employees for Digi Outdoor Media, an electronic sign company, with which he had a consulting agreement, according to the memo.
The Post has reported that Digi Outdoor wrote Evans’ firm, NSE Consulting, two checks totaling $50,000 and issued it 200,000 shares of stock before Evans circulated legislation that would have aided the firm. Evans said he returned the checks and stock before he introduced the legislation. He withdrew the bill when it became clear it did not have the support to pass.
Digi Outdoor’s sign venture is being carried on by investors who say they no longer have business ties to its founder, Donald MacCord, who formed the financial relationship with Evans. A spokeswoman for the investors did not immediately provide comment. MacCord could not be reached.
In saying that Evans “knowingly” violated ethics rules, the Schulte Roth memo noted that Evans has been a practicing lawyer for nearly 40 years, has received annual in-person Metro ethics training from 2015 through 2018, and has served as chairman of the Metro ethics committee.
“Evans did not disclose his consulting and personal relationships, and he did not recuse himself from any [Metro]-related transactions, discussion or issues,” the memo said. It found he committed multiple violations of five provisions in the Metro Code of Ethics and one in the Metro Compact.
Evans had consulting agreements paying him a total of $325,000 a year with entities that were “owned by or affiliated with one of six individuals with personal, business and/or social relationships with Evans,” the memo said.
Of those six, three of the individuals — ones associated with Colonial, Digi and Eagle Bank — posed ethical problems, the memo said.
“At least one client (i.e. Eagle Bank)was a [Metro] vendor, and others (i.e. Colonial and Digi)sought to do business with [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority],” the memo said. “In total, Evans’s consulting clients agreed to pay him $325,000 a year. At no time did Evans disclose any of these consulting agreements to WMATA.”
Evans phoned a reporter Thursday afternoon to say that some of the law firm’s figures were inaccurate. He said he received a total of $350,000 over three years, and that he returned $50,000 to Digi. It was not immediately possible to clarify the discrepancy.
Regarding Eagle Bank, Evans asked CEO Ron Paul, a friend, for a job in 2016, the memo said. Paul declined but hired Evans as a consultant. Metro has increased the funds it maintains at Eagle from $4 million to about $24 million as of 2019, the memo said.
Eagle Bank did not immediately respond to an email and voice mail requesting comment.
Evans directed questions about the law firm’s memo to his lawyer, Tuohey.
“I’ve not seen the document, but I’m sure it encompasses what [the law firm] reported orally to the ethics committee,” Tuohey said. “All of it was rejected by the ethics committee except for the one disclosure violation.”
Washington Post reporters Peter Jamison, Fenit Nirappil, Steve Thompson, Ovetta Wiggins and Laura Vozzella contributed to this article.