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DeLaney asks for tougher rules after ethics conflict

September 24, 2014

An Indiana House Democrat is calling for a new ethics rule designed to close loopholes exposed by departing Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner.

Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis issued a letter to media outlets Wednesday saying lawmakers should enact a new "Turner Rule" that bars them from "any legislative activity" on issues in which they have money at stake.

During private meetings of House Republicans this year, Turner fought legislation that would have halted construction of nursing homes, skirting state ethics rules on conflicts of interest. An Associated Press investigation found his family's nursing home business, Mainstreet Property Group, stood to lose millions of dollars in possible profit if a construction ban was approved.

Turner has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He announced last week that he would resign in November if re-elected, but has rejected calls from his opponent, Democrat Bob Ashley, to step down now immediately. Under election law, it is too late for Turner's name to be removed from the ballot.

If Turner, R-Cicero, does win, a caucus of precinct committee officials in District 32 will choose his replacement.

The House Ethics Committee cleared Turner of wrongdoing in April but determined he exposed loopholes in state ethics laws. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma announced last month that he would remove Turner from leadership and work on ethics reforms during the 2015 session.

DeLaney said the case illustrates the need to broaden the House rule governing self-interest, which he said was too specific.

"This rule forbids speaking and voting on matters of serious personal financial interest. It should be expanded to expressly forbid any legislative activity on a matter seriously affecting oneself, including lobbying one's fellow members," Delaney wrote.

He said that by making his case during caucus discussions, Turner in effect became a lobbyist, not a legislator.

Turner said he was taking a job with Equip Leadership Inc., a Georgia-based not-for-profit organization specializing in mentoring and equipping Christian leaders.

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