Ethics complaint filed against ex-PAC officialGroup seeks disclosure of amount of cash given to TRMPAC treasurer
January 20, 2006
By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint against Dallas businessman Bill Ceverha on Thursday, saying he failed to disclose the amount of a cash gift given to him by the biggest GOP donor in the state.
Mr. Ceverha is the former treasurer of the embattled, and now defunct, Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee.
TRMPAC's spending of about $600,000 in corporate contributions has resulted in the indictments of three of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's top lieutenants and led to Mr. Ceverha being held liable for $197,000 in a civil lawsuit.
The damage award and another pending lawsuit prompted Mr. Ceverha, a former state representative, to file for personal bankruptcy last year.
The ethics complaint by Texans for Public Justice stems from a personal disclosure form Mr. Ceverha filled out last year as a trustee on the Texas Employees Retirement System board, which manages benefits for state workers and retirees. Under the heading of gifts received, Mr. Ceverha noted that he had accepted a gift from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry.
The existence of a gift must be disclosed only if it exceeded $250. Under the portion of the form that requests a description of the gift, Mr. Ceverha wrote, "check."
Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, called that a "nondisclosure disclosure" that is "woefully inadequate." Mr. McDonald has asked the Ethics Commission to find that the filing is incomplete and force Mr. Ceverha to state the amount of money he took from Mr. Perry.
Mr. McDonald said the public deserves to know the amount of cash gifts board members are receiving, and he drew comparisons to problems at TRMPAC, which never disclosed its corporate contributions in state filings.
"Mr. Ceverha has a disturbing history of misleading the people of Texas through incomplete financial disclosures," Mr. McDonald said.
Mr. Ceverha and Mr. Perry, who has given millions to Republican causes, could not be reached for comment.
Tim Sorrells, deputy general counsel to the ethics commission, said a complaint made to the agency is confidential and that he could not acknowledge the action by Mr. McDonald.
He said that he was unaware whether the commission had previously studied "what specificity is required to meet the requirements" of gift disclosure.
Those who have a complaint filed against them have up to 25 business days to respond. Mr. Sorrells said that commission staff investigate the case and make a recommendation to commissioners, who can dismiss the complaint, find it valid but waive a penalty, or assess a penalty.