Editorial: Openly air the disgust for ethics commissionSan Antonio Express-News
Do citizens have a right to know when a political donor gives $100,000 to a state official? The Texas Ethics Commission doesn't find any basis in state law for such a disclosure.
The law requires officials to report gifts and donations they receive in excess of $250. Last month, the commission ruled that Bill Ceverha, a trustee of the $20 billion state Employees Retirement System, needed to disclose only that he received a check from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry.
The check amount, three commissioners ruled, didn't have to be revealed because lawmakers were insufficiently clear on this common sense point.
Under mounting criticism, both Ceverha and Perry disclosed to the Dallas Morning News the amount — $50,000. Ceverha said he would report to the commission next month the receipt of a second check, also for $50,000.
If not for the outcry surrounding the ruling, the public would know only that Ceverha received two checks whose combined value equaled or exceeded $500. The disclosure to the Morning News solves the mystery of the amounts, but it doesn't absolve the commission for a decision that makes a mockery of ethics oversight.
A Perry spokesman told the newspaper the businessman has "zero interest" in the retirement system. The checks were simply gifts to help Ceverha, who declared bankruptcy as a result of legal proceedings related to his activities as treasurer for Texans for a Republican Majority.
That may be so. There may be no conflict of interest. But that is not something for Bill Ceverha, Bob Perry and three misguided commissioners to decide in private. It is something for the public to determine after full disclosure.
Raymond "Tripp" Davenport III, Ross Fischer and Francisco Hernandez are the commissioners who believe they can't require the amount of checks to be revealed without specific instructions from the Legislature. The public can share its thoughts about this ethical myopia by writing the Texas Ethics Commission, P. O. Box 12070, Austin, Texas 78711-2070.