On the Records: Ethics Fines Now Searchable

In keeping with our goal of making government data more accessible, we've created a simple application for searching fines issued by the Texas Ethics Commission.

 Jacob Villanueva

Today we're releasing a simple application for searching fines assessed by the Texas Ethics Commission. These are the "sworn complaint" orders issued when the commission finds that an official violated state law or the agency's rules.

This information is already on the commission's Web site, but we wanted readers to be able to search for fines by an official's name, city, title and organization — and then have the option of drilling down into more detail (like whether the fine has been paid).

Tomorrow we'll have a story about the increase in ethics fines in recent years. It notes a $75,000 sanction against Jerry Eversole, a member of the Harris County Commissioner's Court, as an example.

Let's use him for a sample search. To find Eversole's fine in the database, search "eversole" under last name. You can also select an official's city, job type (Commissioner, Representative, etc.) and agency name (Harris County, General Land Office, etc) -- or filter the results by selecting a year (or multiple years) and the fine range. 

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After the search, the results will be displayed horizontally across the page in rows and columns. You can sort by clicking any of the field headers (Agency, Name, Amount). The "PDF" link will take you to the agency's full report on the complaint. As always, you can download the search query results into a comma-delimited file (open in Microsoft Excel, Google Docs or Open Office) if you want to create a visualization for your own site.

The "View Details" link will show you more data, such as notes related to the case.

So that's the app. Let us know what you find — or if you remix the data.

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Good hunting.

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