Berry Underreports Value of D.C. Property

June 11, 2009

Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) appears to have understated by hundreds of thousands of dollars the value of his Capitol Hill row house on his annual financial disclosure forms.

In May, Berry filed a financial disclosure form reporting the value of the house at between $250,000 and $500,000, the same value that he has listed on his disclosure forms each year.

But according to District of Columbia tax records, the current assessed value of the house is $947,080, and the proposed 2010 assessment value is $864,970, reflecting the drop in Capitol Hill property values.

Berry and his wife bought the house in 1999 for $369,000, but the rules for reporting property values on disclosure forms clearly state that the filer is to use “fair market value.”

If that value is unavailable, the filer may report the purchase price or the assessed value for tax purposes, but in those cases, the filer is required to report an exact amount, not a range, and to disclose which method is being used to determine the value.

Berry’s form offers no indication of how he is setting the value.

Members do not have to disclose the value of their homes if they are for personal use only; Berry rents the house and receives $15,000 to $50,000 a year in income. When a house produces rental income, the House Ethics Manual explains that the value of the entire home must be reported, not simply the value of the rental unit.

Berry spokeswoman Angela Guyadeen said late Thursday, “Upon further review, it appears that a mistake was made. We are currently working with the Clerk’s office to adequately address this oversight and amend Congressman Berry’s financial disclosure report.”

Last year, Roll Call reported that ex-Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) had made the same error on his disclosure forms, and dozens of other Members — including then-Sen. Barack Obama — had filed disclosure forms with other mistakes and omissions.
Click here to read the full story.