Bosma asks House Ethics Committee to review Turner

March 20, 2014

Speaker Brian Bosma asked members of the House Ethics Committee Thursday to determine whether a lawmaker did anything wrong by privately lobbying for his family's nursing home business.

Bosma, R-Indianapolis, wrote a letter to House Ethics Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, requesting an investigation into whether Republican Rep. Eric Turner violated any ethics rules.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Turner, R-Cicero, had lobbied other members of the Republican caucus in private last week to block a nursing home ban that would have harmed his son's business. Democratic Party Chairman John Zody asked for an ethics investigation in a letter sent to Bosma Tuesday.

IBJ first reported March 14 that last-minute lobbying unexpectedly killed the legislation.

Bosma also asked the panel to conduct a broader review of House ethics rules.

"I am forwarding this inquiry to your attention to determine whether the Rules of the Indiana House of Representatives, or other applicable authorities, have been violated," Bosma wrote. "If you find a violation, please recommend any actions you feel should be taken."

Even with Bosma's request, it's unclear whether there would be an investigation.

Steuerwald said he would have to talk with other members of the committee before deciding whether to hold a hearing. And if the members do agree to a meeting, he questioned whether anyone would testify because caucus discussions are considered private.

"I don't think we have any means to compel people to comment," Steuerwald said. "This is from a discussion in a private caucus — I mean, geez. As you know Democrats and Republicans have those private caucus meetings every day and getting involved in the discussions that happen in caucus would be. Wow. Those are private and confidential by design."

Emails to Turner and his spokesman were not immediately returned Thursday afternoon. Turner has not commented about his involvement in the nursing home fight since the first reports came out at the start of the week.

Supporters of placing a ban on the construction of new nursing homes argued during the session that it was needed to keep the market from being flooded and Medicaid patients ultimately losing quality health care. But opponents of the ban, including Turner's son and daughter, argued that banning new construction would cost thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in economic impact.

Turner's son, Zeke Turner, is the CEO of Mainstreet Property Group, which is in the process of developing nursing homes throughout the state. Eric Turner's daughter, Jessaca Stults Turner, is Mainstreet's registered lobbyist at the Statehouse.

Turner maintained his neutrality in public through the fight. But behind closed doors, he lobbied against the ban. Republicans with direct knowledge of Turner's efforts told the AP that he spoke out in private caucus meetings on the last two days of session, last Wednesday and Thursday.

Bosma also asked the panel to conduct a broader review of House ethics rules.

"In addition I would request the committee consider whether revisions to our Code of Ethics or statute regarding our Statement of Economic Interest are warranted to give further transparency and openness to the legislative process," he wrote.

Bosma called for an ethics review last spring after the AP reported about Turner's efforts to clear the way for a multimillion-dollar contract for a lobbying and other outlets wrote about state Rep. Matt Ubelhor's interest in the construction of the Rockport coal-gasification plant. But that review had still not happened as of Thursday.


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