Last week, North Dakotans for Public Integrity (NDPI) held a meeting to discuss concerns they have with the conflict of interest rules in the state constitution.
Tuesday, they planned to address some of those concerns with the ethics commission.
NDPI attended a hearing hosted by the North Dakota Ethics Commission to discuss matters such as making information readily available, issuing complaints and conflicts of interest.
“What I’m hearing today is number one, you’d like a public dialogue, as opposed to just input. So that will be relayed to the commission, they’ll look at that,” said David Thiele, executive director of the North Dakota Ethics Commission, in the meeting.
NDPI called for more transparency from the ethics commission, citing a request for a recording of the meeting and making it readily available to the public.
As of now, the ethics commission live streams its meetings but provides minutes for the meeting as opposed to a recording.
“It is skirting the whole idea of transparency in conflicts of interest for elected officeholders and their appointees,” said Dina Butcher, president of NDPI.
NDPI said they are in the process of researching how to file a complaint regarding the alleged lack of transparency.
“We want to make sure the public, the people who voted for Measure 1, which became Article 14 in the constitution, we want to make sure their vote counted toward real transparency in government,” said Butcher.
The executive director of the ethics commission says there are several ways to file a complaint, all abiding by the constitution.
“We’ve got a hotline, that you could be confidential, that’s part of the constitution. We got an email that’s confidential, that we created,” said Thiele.
The biggest issue stemming from Tuesday’s hearing was conflicts of interest — something the NDPI has advocated to bring to light.
The term quasi-judicial was thrown around quite often, and it’s defined as a public official who is called upon to perform a judicial act when the public official is not a member of the North Dakota judiciary.
Thiele said, “Two classic examples are the industrial commission and the PSC. Those would be quasi-judicial bodies, and it talks about the appearance of bias based off of campaign contributions.”
Butcher expressed her point of view and said, “They need good legal advice and possibly independent legal advice on some of these issues.”
NDPI believes there are issues that were left unaddressed, but hopes these concerns will be addressed by the ethics commission in future meetings.
The ethics commission has a public comment period open until Dec. 10 to address any concerns you would like the ethics commission to bring up at future meetings.
The commission urges the public to make any comments to allow concerns to be heard.