Why Jack Evans was desperate for work
By Jeffrey Anderson
Jack Evans leads an extraordinary life. As the D.C. Council’s longest standing member, with boundless influence and reach, he sits in box seats, attends who’s who events and galas, and poses for photo ops whenever the opportunity arises.
But in 2013-2014, things were not so settled for the consummate insider with mayoral aspirations.
Evans needed money.
To understand why Evans, the subject of a long-running ethics scandal and federal probe, went so far as to solicit private clients using his public office, one needs only to examine public records related to his side jobs and his multimillion dollar Georgetown home.
Over a period of months, District Dig reviewed hundreds of pages of documents at multiple D.C. agencies, and communications from Evans’s Council email account obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
What surfaces is a portrait of a man who has overseen the city’s finances for years, while losing a grip on his own.
The Dig has made multiple requests to speak with Evans, by phone, email and text. He has not replied.
A central aspect of Evans’s story is the death of his first wife, Noel, in 2003, when the couple’s triplets were six years old. Suddenly, the veteran Council member was the single dad who worked two (or three) jobs to provide for his three children and their future.
The couple had acquired a historic Georgetown row house in 1996 that was in need of renovations. The 19th century gem-in-the-rough cost $321,000, according to land records filed with the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue.
Evans soon began borrowing against the house and repaying his loans as the property value grew.
Evans is known to scribble his money matters on a pad of paper while sitting on the Council dais. He’s had a lot to scribble over the years.
A computation based on documents filed with the Recorder of Deeds shows that Evans has used his Georgetown row house to secure more than $6 million in various types of loans over the last 20-plus years–most of which he has paid off along the way.
He seems to have done well for himself. The Office of Tax and Revenue now values his property at $2,411,170 (with a taxable assessment of $2,156,417).
Other circumstances complicate this picture.
Evans was employed at BakerHostetler in 1991 when he was first elected to the Council to represent Ward 2. He was practicing securities and corporate law, according to his resume, which The Dig obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
In 1999, his resume says, he took a job with Central Benefits Mutual Insurance, a Columbus, Ohio, company that hired him as legal counsel in D.C., where they hoped to relocate.
Three years into his employment with Central Benefits, in 2002, Evans joined Patton Boggs LLP (later re-named Squire Patton Boggs) to specialize in “government and Congressional relations, business law, and corporate securities services,” his resumé states.
Financial disclosure records show that his salary at Patton Boggs was $190,000 per year.
Evans held the two outside jobs from 2002 until December 2008, on top of his Council salary, until the insurance company began winding down its business around 2009, according to documents filed with the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.
Whereas Evans’s law firm job was widely known, his association with a mid-sized life and health insurer from Ohio flew under the radar. (It later surfaced in a news report that Evans had been making $50,000 per year for 10 years while serving as Registered Agent for the company, which has long been sold.)
In 2010, as his insurance company income was drying up, Evans married Michele Seiver, an interior designer he had been dating for several years who also had three children from a previous marriage.
Combining households to accommodate a family of eight–a modern day “Brady Bunch”–was a challenge, the couple said at the time. So the newlyweds began large scale renovations to Evans’s Georgetown home.
The Evanses went all-in, with an architect, top-flight contractor and a budget in excess of $600,000, according to a signed and notarized agreement the couple signed on July 26, 2011, which was later filed with the Recorder of Deeds; and emails obtained by The Dig through the Freedom of Information Act.
The “Agreement” defines the residence as “Jack’s House,” and says that Evans would retain exclusive ownership. But because his wife fronted the cost of the renovations, it also purported to secure her as his primary lender.
“The parties agree that Michele Evans will invest in excess of $600,000 in making the needed renovations to Jack’s House and that Jack Evans agrees to repay, pursuant to this Agreement and the Promissory Notes, all of the money she invests into Jack’s House,” the Agreement states.
“WHEREAS, the parties agree that legal title to Jack’s House shall remain solely in the name of Jack Evans, but that all of the property and property interests of Jack Evans will serve as security for the repayment of all monies invested by Michele Evans in Jack’s House.”
The Agreement further states that Evans would not use the house to secure any other debt “in excess of the total amount of the first and second mortgage liens in place against the property as of the date of this Agreement,” unless Michele Evans consented in writing.
Any new debt incurred by Evans would be required to be repaid “upon the death of either party,” or “the sale of Jack’s House,” or “within six months from the date of the separation of the parties.” If Evans did not retire any remaining debt within six months of sale or separation, the Agreement states, he would begin to incur 8 percent interest, annually.
All unpaid principal and interest would result in a claim against “Jack’s House” or the “Estate of Jack Evans.”
Michele Evans’s instinct to protect her investment would prove to be well-founded.
In 2012, after a year of major construction, Evans and his wife invited the public into “Jack’s House,” with historical tours, community news coverage of those tours, and a videotaped feature with the Post that showed his children doing their homework at a table in the renovated home.
This public face of the Evans family coincided with a decision by Evans that he would run for mayor. He had run unsuccessfully in 1998, but in the 2014 election he would be up against a politically damaged incumbent in Vince Gray and a junior colleague in Muriel Bowser.
Yet just as his political aspirations rose, a series of transactions seemed to further complicate his financial situation–and possibly his marriage.
Evans had agreed to not borrow against his house without written consent from his wife. However, on January 17, 2012, he entered into an agreement with Capital One (formerly Chevy Chase Bank) that forestalled repayment of a “Creditor Loan” of $450,000 from 2003, in favor of a new “Mortgage Loan” in the amount of $800,000, according to the Recorder of Deeds.
A little more than a week later, on January 26, he signed a “Deed of Trust” and a promissory note, using his house to secure the mortgage loan, “SUBJECT TO COVENANTS OF RECORD,” documents on file with the Recorder of Deeds show.
This allowed him to pay off a 2009 Deed of Trust with Chevy Chase Bank a week later in the amount of $417,000 as “SURVIVING TENANT BY THE ENTIRETY OF NOEL E. EVANS, WHO DIED ON OR ABOUT SEPTEMBER 12, 2003,” according to a “Certificate of Satisfaction” filed with the Recorder.
Evans wasn’t done moving money around. On December 7, 2012, he signed a second agreement with Capital One that again “subordinated” his $450,000 creditor loan to another $800,000 mortgage loan, the public records show.
The resulting Deed of Trust and a promissory note dated April 12, 2013–also secured by his house–enabled him to repay the previous $800,000 mortgage loan, according to the documents on file with the Recorder of Deeds.
Both $800,000 loans, initiated less than a year apart, required Evans to discharge debts secured by superior liens unless he agreed in writing to initiate payments on those debts, contest the liens, or obtain a subordination agreement from the primary lien holder, his wife Michele.
The Dig was unable to find anything on file with the Recorder of Deeds that shows Evans disclosed to the bank on either occasion his 2011 Agreement with his wife, or that she consented in writing to his bank transactions, or that she even knew about them.
One sign that Evans’s lending activity was amiss came about three months after he signed the December 2012 bank agreement, when on March 18, 2013, Michele officially recorded the couple’s 2011 Agreement with the Recorder of Deeds, after having held onto it for two years.
By the time 2014 rolled around, Evans was staring at payments on the $450,000 creditor loan, the second $800,000 mortgage loan, and whatever he owed his wife from the renovation, which was expected to cost “in excess of $600,000,” according to the couple’s Agreement.
According to the D.C. Real Property Assessment Division, Evans’s house was valued at $1,696,870 at the time. Yet even with all of his debt piling up, he went back to Capital One, on May 16, 2014, and obtained a revolving line of credit for up to $1.5 million:
“THIS IS A HOME EQUITY CREDIT LINE DEED OF TRUST. DEFAULT ON PAYMENTS MAY RESULT IN THE LOSS OF YOUR HOME,” the document on file at the Recorder of Deeds states.
Five days later, on May 21, 2014, Michele Evans certified in writing that Evans had paid her back the money she spent renovating his house, public records show. (The Certificate of Satisfaction does not provide a specific amount.)
About a month after paying back his wife, Evans paid off his 2003 creditor loan of $450,000, according to another Certificate of Satisfaction, signed on June 30, 2014, and filed with the Recorder of Deeds the following day.
A little more than four months after the dust settled, the couple separated, on November 15, 2014, according to records on file at D.C.’s Family Court.
Meanwhile, Evans’s run at Patton was coming to an end, leaving him at a loss for his secondary income and saddled with the costs of private high schools and colleges for his three children.
He needed to get back some of the outside business he had grown accustomed to.
“Dear Bill, Per your request, please find Jack’s resume and business plan attached,” wrote Schannette Grant, Evans’s Chief of Staff, in an email from her Council address to Venable’s William Hall, on January 14, 2015, according to emails obtained by The Dig through a FOIA request.
“Happy New Year John!” Grant wrote, in a separate email the same day to former D.C. Councilmember John Ray, a partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips. “Per your conversation with Jack, please find his resume and business plan attached. I hope you are doing well.”
The business plan that accompanied these emails, also obtained by The Dig through a FOIA request, and a third email the following month to a partner in the finance group at Reed Smith LLP, show Evans leveraging his services (and influence) in an intriguing manner:
“As indicated in the attached resume, I am involved in two careers, the practice of law and as an elected official on the City Council in Washington, D.C….With the support of a law firm, and utilizing the contacts I have made, I recommend contacting major local businesses in the Metropolitan Area seeking to provide legal representation.”
Then Evans, chair of the Council Committee on Finance and Revenue, chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, listed potential clients such as The Forge Company (Colonial Parking), Exelon, Trammell Crow, Fort Myer Construction Corporation and Eagle Bank–businesses he has supported as a Council member.
“While I would not be able to directly lobby the District government, I could certainly use my knowledge of local government to strategize with someone looking to do business locally.”
Evans landed an “Of Counsel” position at Manatt in October 2015, at a reduced salary of $60,000 per year, according to his public financial disclosures.
It would take another 15 months before Jack and Michele reached a formal separation agreement, on March 1, 2016. The couple divorced the following day, according to Family Court records.
The “Marital Settlement Agreement,” which is not included in the public court file, resolves all claims “including but not limited to support and distribution of marital property and debt,” with “no reasonable hope or expectation of reconciliation,” according to the court file.
Michele Evans declined to comment for this story.
Evans of course did not fare well in the 2014 mayoral primary, and his time with Manatt was not destined to last long. (Perhaps that explains why he formed a company called NSE Consulting LLC at his home in July 2016–a source of indeterminate income and services, and controversy, as The Dig and The Washington Post have reported.)
Eventually, as 2017 was coming to an end, along with his job with Manatt, Evans found himself still carrying personal debt, with financial obligations to his children, while lacking a second income.
Yet he knew just what to do:
“Dear Tim, Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today,” he wrote, to Tim Fitzgibbon, a partner with the law firm Nelson Mullins, on February 5, 2018.
“Please find my draft business strategy development plan attached. Please feel free to make any changes you feel are necessary.
“I look forward to hearing from you. Jack.”
Note: Due to a technical problem, this article has been updated and re-posted.