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House ethics panel finds Turner didn't violate rules

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An ethics panel cleared House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner of wrongdoing Wednesday for fighting a measure that would have cost him millions of dollars, but it urged lawmakers to strengthen the disclosure rules for public officials.

Turner lobbied behind closed doors against a proposed five-year construction ban that would have stalled development of multiple projects he is invested in through Mainstreet Property Group. Mainstreet Property documents obtained by The Associated Press show Turner had more than $4 million on the line through his ownership stake in the company.

In a letter to Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, the House Ethics Committee said Turner's actions exposed a weakness in the system.

"While the committee does not find that a technical violation has occurred, we are concerned that Representative Turner's actions have not achieved the highest spirit of transparency. Remaining questions about his conduct, while he is in compliance with our rules, give us concern that our rules do not require enough disclosure," the committee wrote.

Turner did not attend Wednesday's meeting or the first ethics meeting on the issue last week. His lawyer, Toby McClamroch, who sat through both meetings, said the panel's decision "exonerates" Turner and that the lawmaker would likely participate in any change in the ethics rules.

"If the Legislature would like to look at the code of ethics and recommend changes to the legislative body, I mean Rep Turner will help in that process. I think we're aware from this of some of the changes they may want to look at and he's more than happy to help," McClamroch said.

The ethics investigation is the first internal review of a House member in nearly two decades. Bosma called for the investigation last month following reports that Turner lobbied against the construction ban in private meetings of the House Republican caucus during the final two days of the 2014 legislative session.

Indiana's ethics laws bar lawmakers from taking formal actions to benefit themselves, such as casting specific votes, but also encourage lawmakers to offer their "expertise" in debates.

Turner thanked the ethics panel in a statement for "clearing" him and said he was clearly offering his perspective on the nursing home industry, not pressuring lawmakers.

"I offered my expertise on the nursing home moratorium in caucus because I have been involved in the industry as a passive investor in senior care real estate for many years," he said in the statement.

The panel's top Democrat, Rep. Clyde Kersey, of Terre Haute, said Turner has exposed holes in an ethics code that has not been changed in roughly 20 years.

"I think this whole thing brought out the fact that we need to make some changes, make things more transparent and call for full disclosure," he said.

For instance Turner listed on his latest economic disclosure form that he is invested in Mainstreet Capital Partners but did not note that company's connection to Mainstreet Property Group. A Mainstreet Property Group document obtained by the AP shows that Turner owns half of Mainstreet Capital Partners, which owns 76 percent of Mainstreet Property Group.

The Indianapolis Star reported that Turner stopped listing the names of nursing home companies he was invested in through another company, T3 Investments, in 2006. Turner's wrote in testimony submitted to the ethics panel that he did not believe he needed to disclose those connections.

House Ethics Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, said the committee would meet in the coming months and look to have recommendations ready before lawmakers return for their 2015 session in January.

"I expect a full review of all the rules, the code of ethics, as well as the statute," he said.

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  • No Response From the Governor
    Has anyone heard the Governor comment on this? If he really wants to be a leader here is his chance to speak out on an issue of ethics (not ethics bogged down in technicalities). I guess he is too busy rewriting the school standards and announcing 100 new jobs from Germany.
  • What a Joke
    Turner and his son are self-dealing slime balls, plain and simple. The IBJ should do a story on how Turner lobbied to change fireworks laws several years ago and once they were changed low and behold his family's fireworks company was purchased for close to $100 Million--more self-dealing yet again! All the spin his son puts out about how he worked hard as kid running his own fireworks stands are a joke--guess who provided his product for free? They are lying through their teeth when they say that the nursing home moratorium would not have hurt their company. Only in a place like Indiana where you can change the laws to your own advantage can you get away with this. There are no other states where they will have it so easy and they know it. Absolute joke. I hope the voters, Mainstreet's banks, their investors, and towns/cities where they want to build realize how these guys gig the system and that all the spin they put out can't hide those facts. I live in Turner's district and he is NOT getting my vote.
  • Disappointed
    But not surprised. Seems a lot like letting the fox fix the fence to the chicken coop.
  • haha
    The joke's on the voters of Indiana who elected this guy. I cry foul. Opps...the ref and the player are buds.
  • same old ethics
    It's the same old ethics at the state. No wonder no one has any faith in this states government that the right thing would be done. I guess it's still WHO MAKE THE LAWS GETS TO BRAKE THE LAWS.
  • Suprise
    Really....was anyone thinking it would be different?
  • It's called a rubber stamp
    I guess they just had to wait until all the donuts were gone before calling it a day. We have the most corrupt State government in the history of Indiana.

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