BISMARCK — North Dakota's governor and Senate leaders wrestled with addressing potential conflicts of interest among a pool of applicants for the state government's new ethics commission Friday, July 12, as the selection panel inches closer to its final picks.

Gov. Doug Burgum offered to withdraw two candidates over potential conflicts of interest: Dan Brosz and Jonathan Sickler.

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford owns a building which Brosz's engineering firm rents, Burgum said, and Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, an employee-owned company where Sickler works as legal counsel, has worked on a number of government projects.

Burgum, a Republican, praised both candidates' qualifications but said he hoped to come up with five final candidates for the ethics commission with no "real or perceived" conflicts of interest.

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, a New Rockford Democrat who's helping pick ethics commission members, cautioned that North Dakota's small population means some connections are unavoidable. But the selection panel agreed to remove Brosz and Sickler from the candidate list.

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The ethics commission was written into the state's constitution with the passage of Measure 1 in 2018. The constitution bars its members from holding another public office or being a lobbyist, a candidate for public office, or a political party official.

The commission will be able to write rules on transparency, corruption, elections and lobbying as well as investigate wrongdoing.

The selection panel ultimately shrunk its list of candidates down to 12 from 17.

It didn't set a date for another meeting.

Here are the candidates the selection committee advanced Friday:

Ron Goodman, Oakes; Cynthia Lindquist, Devils Lake; Bill Knudson, Mandan; Paul Richard, Fargo; Marilyn Foss, Bismarck; Shirley Meyer, Dickinson; David Anderson, Bismarck; Ken Christianson, Fargo; Ward Koeser, Williston; Jeff Risk, Minot; Dan Fuller, West Fargo; Clarice Liechty, Jamestown;