House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner stepped up to defend himself Wednesday against allegations that he improperly fought a nursing home ban that would have harmed his family's business.
Turner is the subject of a pending ethics hearing — one that could come as soon as the second week in April — into whether he violated ethics rules by lobbying against a nursing home ban in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session. Turner's son develops nursing homes throughout the state and his business would have suffered under a construction moratorium that was under consideration. The ban died in the final hours of the session.
Throughout the session, Turner withdrew from the issue in public, recusing himself from multiple votes on the issue. But Republicans said that he fought ardently in private meetings of the House Republican caucus to block the ban.
Turner did not directly address talks within the caucus Wednesday but said he was "extremely confident the House Ethics Committee will find I have acted within the rules of the House of Representatives, as I have for my entire 24 year career in the Indiana General Assembly.”
"My actions and statements on the nursing home moratorium issue during this last session were squarely within House Rules and the House Code of Ethics," Turner said in a prepared statement Wednesday. "I look forward to fully cooperating with the House Ethics Committee and I firmly believe once all the facts are presented, it will be determined that I acted well within the House Rules and the House Code of Ethics."
Turner issued his statement Wednesday through a private spokesman. He has also retained Toby McClamroch, a well-connected Republican inside the Statehouse, as his lawyer.
Wednesday's statement marked the first time Turner has weighed in on the ethics case since reports first surfaced last Monday. Democratic Party Chairman John Zody asked House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to launch an investigation and Bosma replied last Thursday with a request that the Ethics Committee take up the issue.
House Ethics Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, said he plans to hold a hearing once he has coordinated with the other members of the committee. That could come as soon as the second week in April, he said Wednesday.
It remains unclear, however, if anyone who was in the caucus meetings where Turner spoke will testify during the hearing. The caucus meetings, for members of both parties, are intensely private affairs even though critical decisions are often made there. It was in a private caucus meeting in the last few hours of the session that House Republicans decided to kill the nursing home construction ban.