BISMARCK — The North Dakota Ethics Commission convened for the first time Thursday, Sept. 12, as it addressed the basic chores of forming a state board from scratch and its newly minted chairman disclosed he almost dropped out of the running for the panel.
In a meeting that was light on ceremony and heavy on procedure, the commission received a briefing on open meeting laws, discussed filling staff positions and set future meeting dates. They’ll meet again Friday at the Heritage Center in Bismarck before reconvening Oct. 23 and 24 at the state Capitol.
With the commission’s formation, North Dakota joined the ranks of nearly ever other state with such a panel overseeing government officials’ conduct.
A selection committee composed of Gov. Doug Burgum and Senate leaders from both parties picked the commissioners by consensus last month. Their terms began Sept. 1, about 10 months after North Dakotans voted to create the panel.
“This is 12 days that we’ve been a body,” said commission Chairman Ron Goodman, a retired North Dakota district judge. “We want to do it right. We’ve got five very intelligent people who are kind of novices dealing with the state, so it’s just going to take some time.”
Goodman said early in the meeting that he almost withdrew his candidacy for the panel because of his neuropathy, a medical issue affecting his feet, and the time he spends with family out of the state, but he said “the selection committee prevailed on me to keep my application in.”
“I’ve been assured that my presence can be here through video conferences,” he said.
Goodman’s fellow commissioners still voted to name him chairman, and they assigned Cankdeska Cikana Community College President Cynthia Lindquist as vice chairwoman.
The other three commissioners are former Williston Mayor Ward Koeser, former Sanford Health executive Paul Richard and David Anderson, a former high-ranking official in the North Dakota National Guard who’s now coordinator of military student services at the University of Mary.
Voters created the commission by amending the state constitution at the ballot box last year. Though supporters of the measure criticized an implementation bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, the commission will be able to write its own rules on transparency, corruption, elections and lobbying as well as investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
State lawmakers budgeted about $517,000 and two full-time positions for the commission in the 2019-21 biennium. The panel discussed the process of hiring an executive director and an administrative assistant Thursday.
Lindquist said for now, organizing the commission will take priority over rules they’ll consider later.
“It’s kind of the nuts and bolts,” she said.