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Embattled Indiana Rep. Turner to resign after elections

September 19, 2014

Embattled state Rep. Eric Turner announced Friday he will resign from his seat after the November election to take a job with a Christian leadership training group based in Duluth, Georgia.

The timing in Turner, R-Cicero, stepping down means his seat will be in the hands of the Republicans if he survives a challenge from Democrat Bob Ashley in District 32. Three weeks ago, House Speaker Brian Bosma announced plans to strip Turner of his title as House speaker pro tem.

Turner, 62, has no choice but to stay on the ballot. Candidates had to withdraw by July 15 to remove their names, according to the Secretary of State’s election calendar. That means if he’s elected, a caucus of precinct committee officials in the district will choose his replacement.

Earlier this year, Turner fought privately to defeat legislation that would have been disastrous to his family's nursing home business. Company documents later obtained by The Associated Press revealed that Turner had millions of dollars on the line.

Bosma ordered an investigation by the House Ethics Committee which found Turner had not technically violated any ethics rules, but instead exposed loopholes in the state law. Bosma later wrote in his announcement of removing Turner from leadership that the lawmaker had exposed "irreconcilable conflicts" that would be addressed in ethics legislation during the 2015 legislative session.

Turner, who has been in the house for 24 years, did not address the scandal in a lengthy news release Friday afternoon, but instead ticked off a list of legislative accomplishments.

"It has been the honor of my life to represent constituents of my district in the Indiana House of Representatives," Turner said. "I will forever treasure the opportunities I have had to make Indiana better."

Turner will become an associate trainer with Equip Leadership Inc., a not-for-profit organization specializing in mentoring and equipping Christian leaders. Turner is a long-time financial supporter of Equip. He and his wife spent a week with the organization in Cyprus teaching leadership to 60 Christian pastors and leaders from 12 Middle East Muslim countries.

Turner holds a major stake in Mainstreet Property Group, a company run by his son that builds high-end nursing homes. Mainstreet would then sell the new homes, at a sizable profit, to a Canadian company also run by Turner's son. The Turners sold the Canadian real estate holding company to an Ohio company last month for $2.4 billion.

Democrats, meanwhile, had begun using Turner's and others' woes and as campaign fodder for the November elections.

The party was critical of a light fine paid by former Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett for campaigning with public resources in 2012. And they've noted problems with former Indiana Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Troy Woodruff, who was recently cleared of technical wrongdoing after four years of investigations, despite overseeing an agency that purchased land from him and his family at inflated prices.

Democratic Party Chairman John Zody, who cited an AP report in his request for an ethics investigation earlier this year, called Turner's decision to wait until after the election hurts the district's voters.

"Now, with a final snub to Hoosiers, Turner is taking for granted that he'll be re-elected in November, only to have his House seat filled by a caucus of GOP leadership," Zody said Friday in a prepared statement. "In reality, the culture of corruption and disrespect by Statehouse Republicans has gone far enough - and Hoosiers have had enough."

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