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North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Forum file photo

First meeting set for North Dakota Ethics Commission

BISMARCK — North Dakota's new Ethics Commission will meet for the first time next month in Bismarck.

The five-person panel will meet beginning at 1 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Russell Reid Auditorium of the North Dakota Heritage Center, with the meeting continuing at 10 a.m. Sept. 13.

"We have a lot of stuff to do," convening Chairman Ron Goodman said. The panel likely will meet again in October for another 1 ½-day meeting, he added.

Goodman will lead the first meeting, for which he is working on an agenda to post.

"We'll try to get into some of the details of what our responsibilities are going to be in September," Goodman said. For now, he said, the commissioners are handling "nuts and bolts" of joining state government, such as photo IDs and tax forms.

The Ethics Commission will be tasked with investigating complaints against elected state officials, candidates for office and lobbyists. It may write its own administrative rules.

State lawmakers budgeted $517,000 and two full-time staff for the commission for the next two years. The commissioners are paid $181 per day they meet, like lawmakers attending interim committee meetings, and are reimbursed for travel expenses.

Gov. Doug Burgum and Senate majority and minority leaders, the trio tasked with naming the first commissioners, will have no involvement with the new board beyond filling vacancies as needed, governor's spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.

The Ethics Commission, created through an initiated constitutional measure in 2018, includes Goodman, a retired district judge in Oakes; Cankdeska Cikana Community College President Cynthia Lindquist, of Devils Lake; former Williston Mayor Ward Koeser; attorney and retired Sanford Health executive Paul Richard, of Fargo; and retired Brig. Gen. David Anderson, of Bismarck.

Goodman said he's happy with the commission's makeup.

"I had no particular vision of who was going to be on, but we have a retired general, we have a president of a college, we've got a mayor, and Paul Richard is a very sharp attorney from Fargo," he said.

Their appointments are effective Sept. 1. They will serve staggered terms: Goodman and Lindquist for four years, Anderson for three years and Richard and Koeser for two years.

They are invited to join a study by the Legislature's interim Judiciary Committee to review the initiatives passed in the constitutional measure for the Ethics Commission. Rep. Larry Klemin, R-Bismarck, who chairs the interim committee, said he sent the ethics commissioners a memo on Tuesday inviting them to take part in the study of the new constitutional amendment.

"There are things in there that aren’t entirely clear, and I'm sure that there'll be a lot of discussion," he said.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, who led the House Ethics Committee and serves on the interim committee, said the study is an opportunity for discussion and ideas to help the Ethics Commission move forward.

"I would hope that during the committee discussion, they would be able to ask questions of legislators and make comments and provide input on things that they think are important so that we have an open dialogue between the commissioners and the legislative interim committee," Kasper said.

The committee is to meet Sept. 25.

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