Officials Not Required to Disclose Value of Monetary Gifts

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The Texas Ethics Commission has ruled state officials don't have to report the value of monetary gifts they receive from political donors.

Texas law requires officials to file personal financial disclosure statements, including a description of gifts they get in excess of 250 dollars.

The commission yesterday approved a staff advisory opinion that said describing such a gift simply as a "check" is enough – no amount is needed.

The case stems from a 2005 disclosure filed by Dallas businessman Bill Ceverha -- a board member of the State Employees Retirement System board.

Ceverha disclosed that he received a gift, described only as a "check," from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who's a GOP supporter.

Both men have since said the check for 50-thousand dollars was supposed to help cover legal fees Ceverha incurred related to a civil suit. He was treasurer of former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Texas fund-raising operation.

Democratic State Representative Lon Burnam of Fort Worth sued the ethics commission in April -- asking that "meaningful" descriptions of gifts be required.

Burnam now says he's eager to move forward with the lawsuit.