I’m writing to support Measure 1 which creates a state ethics commission. I spent more than 36 years working in the state auditor’s office auditing state government. During my career I interacted extensively with legislators through testifying before legislative committees as well as meeting with individual legislators or groups of them. I found the vast majority of legislators to be professional, honest, hardworking people who genuinely wanted to do what was best for our wonderful state. I made many great friends with legislators during my career and I have a great deal of respect for them and the difficult challenges they face.
I am a CPA and like many professions we have an ethics committee and code that our members are required to follow. I served on the North Dakota CPA Society Ethics Committee for more than 15 years (chairing the committee twice) and I see the value in having rules relating to the conduct of people belonging to an organization. These rules cannot reasonably be expected to be detailed enough to cover every potential situation a member may face and thus the ethics committee is necessary to provide interpretation and guidance. It’s important to note that the appearance of independence is often as important as the independence itself.
Opponents of the measure seem concerned with the lack of specifics and the uncertainty surrounding the requirements to be established by the ethics commission. That would be impossible to set forth before the formation of the commission. I believe an ethics code and an ethics commission, to assist in interpreting that code, is something that would improve the credibility of state officials and would increase the confidence the people have in decisions made by our elected officials.
Gordy Smith, Bismarck