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Wendy Reuer, Published August 21 2012

Legislators to create code of conduct after North Dakota named ‘most corrupt state’

FARGO – Local state legislators are putting together a set of bills that would create a code of conduct and oversight regulations for the government after North Dakota was named one of the most corrupt in the nation.

An article in USA Today called North Dakota the most corrupt state in the nation after a study by the Center for Public Integrity gave North Dakota failing grades in its methods of oversight, transparency and disclosure.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said Tuesday that North Dakota is one of only three states that does not have an ethics oversight authority or code of ethics and conduct.

Vermont and Wyoming also do not have a regulatory body.

In what Mock and Rep. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo, have dubbed the “Sunshine Act of 2013” a bipartisan ethics committee would be created to draft a code of conduct. The committee would serve as an oversight for elected and appointed officials.

“It’s comprehensive reform,” Mock said.

Mock said creating an oversight committee would allow the public a place to bring forward complaints of unethical or illegal activity of officials and would allow those accused of wrongdoing a place to present their defense.

Laws would also extend to appointed officials and regulatory candidates such as those running for the Public Service Commission.

Gruchalla pointed toward recent accusations of Republican PSC members accepting campaign contributions from industries regulated by the commission.

The Sunshine Act would require a conflict of interest statement to be made available to the public online. It would also require all candidates at both state and local levels to disclose campaign contributions. It would require all campaign contributions, including super PAC activity, to be reported before early voting begins.

Contribution reports are currently due 20 days before the election. Early voting begins 40 days before the regular election day.

“So for 20 days people are mailing or casting their ballot from their home not knowing what candidates have received, what levels of contributions,” Mock said.

Similar bills were introduced during the 2011 session but failed along party lines, Mock said.

Gruchalla and Mock said they are confident the bill will pass this year as legislators on both sides of the aisle have expressed interest in ethical reform.

“We will get some bipartisan support on this,” Gruchalla said. “My old adage is if they don’t like it, they can vote no, but they’re going to have to face the voters.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530


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