Testimony: DC Council, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, “The Performance of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability’s Office of Government Ethics”

Testimony of Jordan Grossman, Public Witness, November 21, 2019

My name is Jordan Grossman.

I live in Ward 2 and I’m a fifth generation DC resident.

My grandma, my mom, my brothers, my wife and I were actually all born here in Ward 2.

I’ve spent my entire career in public service, working for DC’s Medicaid agency, President Obama’s campaign and administration, a DC federal judge, and on Capitol Hill.

The thread that runs through my career is making government work better and services easier to access.

I think that’s exactly what our local government should be about: making things work better and easier for our neighbors.

I know that working in government is a privilege, not a business opportunity.

But for far too long, we residents of Ward 2 have had to compete for the time and attention of our councilmember with the paying clients who can afford his price.

For years, Jack Evans – who is somehow still a member of this very committee – has worked as a local lobbyist, selling his services to influence our government while simultaneously serving as Ward 2’s elected representative.

Take it from Evans himself.

In emails sent from an official DC Council account, Evans promised to leverage his “network of business relationships developed as an elected official” for companies and lobbyists doing business with the District.

The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) has fined Evans $20,000 for that knowing use of his “public position for his private gain,” but that was just one of three Evans-related issues before BEGA.

Beyond BEGA, Metro’s investigation “uncovered a pattern of conduct in which Evans . . . help[ed] his friends and clients and served their interests, rather than the interests of” Metro.

What’s more, it was later revealed that Evans “repeatedly berated” Metro’s General Counsel and Board Secretary to try to keep his corruption a secret. The Washington Post reported that his abusive behavior was so bad “that Metro officials were concerned the two might sue the agency for wrongful termination or creating a hostile work environment.”

And as you know, the Council’s own investigation found that Evans has repeatedly and flagrantly violated the Council’s ethical rules over just the last five years.

As DCist noted earlier this week, “it’s genuinely difficult to keep track of all the various investigations into” Evans.

Yet what’s most extraordinary is that all of these investigations – to say nothing of the ongoing federal criminal probe – have not deterred Evans in the slightest. In just one example, Evans told the Council’s investigators that he “can’t imagine what else I could have done that was more right than what I did.”

I hope BEGA and the Council recognize how clearly this cavalier attitude calls for stronger, more decisive action.

Allowing this shameless corruption to continue sends a message that councilmembers can get away with putting their own economic interests above those of their constituents.

We need BEGA and the Council to make it clear that our government is working for all DC residents – not just those who can cut big checks.

After years and years of Evans’ complete disregard for basic ethical standards and accountability, enough is enough.

Thank you.