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Eversole sets a record

You da man, Jerry!

Give credit to Jerry Eversole: When he broke the rules, he did it in a big way. The fine levied against the Harris County commissioner this month is the highest in the history of the Texas Ethics Commission.

Eversole’s $75,000 sanction dwarfs the next-highest sanction, a $29,000 penalty slapped on Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht last year for failing to report discounted legal services as a political contribution. No other officeholder has been fined more than $18,000, a TEC spokesman said.

The commission chided Eversole for numerous vague expenditure listings. Designations he used, such as “public relations” and “gifts” and “misc.” — which included no other explanation — “did not adequately describe the categories of goods or services received in exchange for the expenditures,” according to the final Order and Agreed Resolution which was made public Monday.

The commission also said there was “credible evidence” that Eversole violated sections of the election code by using campaign money to pay for personal expenses. Specifically, it cited a $10,000 trip to Florida for him, his wife and two friends. Eversole previously has said the trip was a legitimate use of campaign funds.

The infractions are not criminal violations. Local prosecutors said there are no provisions in law that allow them to go after officeholders who abuse campaign funds in this way. But, as a condition of the settlement with the ethics commission, Eversole had to reimburse his campaign $41,357.10. His fine also had to be paid with personal funds.

If the TEC were truly serious about its job, this record would not stand for long. Be that as it may, the most interesting bit in the story is confirmation from Eversole that he will not resign his office before the end of the term. I presume he’s still planning to not run for re-election, but who knows? Now that this is behind him, maybe he’ll decide it’s still too sweet a gig to leave.

By the way, if you want to know what Eversole spent all that money on but don’t feel like slogging through the TEC settlement (PDF) yourself, fear not. John Coby breaks it down for you, with pictures.

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