INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 14, 2013, 02:34 PM

North Dakota House mulls bill to establish ethics commission

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota needs a panel to investigate alleged acts of wrongdoing by politicians, two Democratic lawmakers told a House committee Thursday.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota needs a panel to investigate alleged acts of wrongdoing by politicians, two Democratic lawmakers told a House committee Thursday.

House assistant Democratic leader Corey Mock of Grand Forks and Rep. Ed Gruchalla of Fargo are pushing a measure aimed at forming a nine-member ethics commission.

Mock told the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee that North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming are the only states that don't have an ethics commission or committee.

"There is no venue for a complaint to be heard," Mock said.

No action was taken Thursday. The Legislature defeated an attempt to create an ethics commission in 2011.

Gruchalla, a retired highway patrol officer, said he was amazed to learn that the Legislature policed itself.

"I was surprised at the lack of actual oversight," Gruchalla said. "I do think there is a definite need for oversight."

The bill is part of the so-called Sunshine Act that also includes a measure aimed at tightening campaign finance rules.

North Dakota House Republican majority leader Al Carlson of Fargo has said he believes an ethics commission isn't necessary because the Legislature already follows high standards of conduct.

Under the proposed measure, the governor would appoint five people to the panel and four of the appointments would be made by the House and Senate leadership.

Lobbyist and North Dakota Chamber of Commerce spokesman Bill Shalhoob opposed the measure, saying the creation of an ethics commission "is a solution in search of a problem."

Shalhoob said voters will decide whether politicians are ethical or not. And he said the commission itself would be overly political based on its makeup.

"If you think you're avoiding politics I think you're kidding yourselves," he told lawmakers.

Tags: