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Indiana

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Ethics panel to rule April 30 on Eric Turner

INDIANAPOLIS – The House Ethics Committee on Wednesday reviewed written testimony from Rep. Eric Turner that could clear him of any official wrongdoing regarding a nursing home moratorium that could have cost him millions.

But the committee will meet again April 30 to take an official vote.

Turner did not attend the meeting nor did anyone testify.

The members – three Republicans and three Democrats – focused on the letter of the law, i.e. the House rules and code of ethics.

Both the rules and code say a member with a conflict of interest cannot vote on or sponsor legislation affecting them personally.

Turner, R-Cicero, did neither. Instead, he is accused of trying to sway his colleagues in a private House Republican caucus against the nursing home moratorium. The bill died in the waning hours of the legislature.

“We found no House rules or ethics rules that apply to caucus itself,” said Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville – chairman of the Ethics Committee.

Turner acknowledged in a statement that he has an ownership stake in Mainstreet Capital Partners, which has an interest in Mainstreet Property Group. His son, Zeke Turner, is CEO of Mainstreet Property, and his daughter, Jessaca Turner Stults, is Mainstreet’s registered lobbyist.

The businesses build nursing homes. Turner claimed the construction ban would have had “no significant effect” on Mainstreet’s business model but an Associated Press report said he stood to lose millions in future profits.

Turner acknowledged in the written interrogatories sent by the Ethics Committee that he spoke about the bill in caucus but said he prefaced it with knowledge of his family’s financial involvement.

He said he offered his “particular expertise on the nursing home industry and the nursing home moratorium.”

Turner also pointed to a House Ethics rule that says “Every member shall give freely of his or her particular expertise during a discussion or debate upon a given proposition,” he said.

The committee is also examining whether Turner accurately filled out his Statement of Economic Interests.

Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, said that in 2005 Turner listed every business he and his wife were involved in. But since then he has not.

Turner said according to the law he didn’t have to report all the companies that a parent company owned.

“We tried to get to the bottom of this and cover every base in terms of what happened,” Kersey said. “I think the questions that we asked were to the point he might not want to answer them because we put him on the spot.”

Steuerwald said the group can only use the rules that exist currently to judge Turner’s actions.

But later this summer he will conduct hearings on whether the rules need to be strengthened. He acknowledged having a part-time citizen legislature complicates the issue of conflicts of interest.

nkelly@jg.net

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