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Ethics hopefuls queried on political past, leadership

By JAMES MacPHERSONJune 10, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota residents vying for a seat on a voter-approved ethics commission are being asked about their political past and examples of leadership, problem solving and unpopular decisions they’ve made.

Nearly 70 people applied to serve on the five-member panel to oversee the conduct of legislators, statewide officials, candidates and lobbyists. It’s considered key to implementing a constitutional amendment to overhaul North Dakota’s government ethics, despite the Republican-led Legislature’s successful push of its own bill they believed met the requirements of the ballot measure.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum and Senate majority and minority leaders must agree on who sits on the five-member panel, which is expected to be chosen by July 1. Questionnaires are due June 12.

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor’s office drafted the more than two dozen-question survey with “input and feedback” from Democratic Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman and Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner.

About half of the questions deal with a candidates’ political past, including public positions they’ve held. Lawmakers and people registered as lobbyists may not sit on the panel.

The legislative leaders said ideal candidates would have significant knowledge of government but they won’t be disqualified if they don’t.

“I think we need people who understand administrative rules to get this ship going,” Wardner said.

One question asks about “time availability.”

Heckaman said the position may not be suitable for someone with a full-time job because of the time commitment it may take to serve.

“It’s going to take a lot of time,” she said. “I don’t know how much because we’re entering unknown waters here.”

Applicants include several former lawmakers, lobbyists, and tribal members.

Commission members will be paid a daily rate of $181 when meeting, which is the same rate as lawmakers.

Voters approved the establishment of the commission last year after the Republican-led Legislature rebuffed repeated attempts for such a panel in the past.

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