Ethics Committee Clears Turner, Calls For Rules Review

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May 1, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – While House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner did not violate House rules, his actions did not achieve “the highest spirit of transparency,” a bipartisan committee found Wednesday.

“As state representatives and elected officials we’re expected to go beyond” the pure letter of the law, said Rep. Clyde Kersey, who is the lead Democrat on the House Ethics Committee.

While the committee’s chair, Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, said Turner didn’t break the rules, those rules may need revisions.

Steuerwald said committee members “want to look further” and review rules surrounding how lawmakers disclose financial interests and potential conflicts. The committee plans to reconvene this summer.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, sent the issue to the committee after Democratic Party Chairman John Zody asked the leader to look into accusations that Turner allegedly lobbied for a proposal that could have helped his family’s nursing home construction business.

Indiana placed a moratorium on nursing home construction in 2009 in part to curb private-paying residents from switching to newer facilities. Proponents of that law say without it, older facilities would have a harder time affording the care for Medicaid patients who would be left.

Hoosier lawmakers were considering legislation that would have extended the moratorium but it died on the session’s last day. A report by the Associated Press says that happened after Turner lobbied in a private caucus against it. That’s when the Democrats requested an investigation.

Toby McClamroch, Turner’s attorney, said he was very pleased with the committee’s opinion.

“It’s clear that they came to the same conclusion as we had,” he said. “Which is, all of the evidence that was submitted to the committee, all the evidence that was before the committee, supports the idea that he complied in every way.”

But Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, said Hoosiers deserve better ethics in state government.

“We should be disgusted that this type of self-serving behavior is not against the rules, and we should all be calling for significant legislative ethics reform,” she said.

Turner said in a statement Wednesday that he is in favor of a reform.

“I fully support the recommendation from the House Ethics Committee to further examine disclosure requirements in the coming months,” he said. “In fact, I willingly provided greater transparency in my answers to the Committee’s interrogatories.”

Vaughn also said public behavior and private behavior need to match.

“If it doesn’t, the things that happen on the House and Senate floor are an act,” she said. “It’s a charade it doesn’t mean anything”

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