Indiana House Ethics Committee: Rep. Turner did not violate rules

A panel of lawmakers says House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner did not violate the House's ethics rules when he fought legislation that would have cost his family's nursing home business millions.

But the House Ethics Committee expressed concerns Wednesday that Turner's efforts to kill a proposed nursing home moratorium did not achieve the "highest spirit of transparency" and vowed to tighten those rules. Turner was not present for Wednesday's meeting.

"There is the letter of the law, which is the way it was written and the spirit of the law, which is the actual intent of the law, and I think that when we looked at this we found out that Representative Turner did not violate any of the technical aspects of it but I think as state representatives and elected officials we are expected to go beyond that," said Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute).

Turner lobbied behind closed doors against a proposed five-year construction ban that would have stalled development of multiple projects he is invested in through Mainstreet Property Group. Mainstreet Property documents obtained by The Associated Press show Turner had more than $4 million in profits on the line through his ownership stake in the company.

Turner's son owns and operates a nursing home based in Carmel. Rep. Turner is alleged to have lobbied against the bill that could have stalled work on projects developed by his son.

Turner said he was anxious for the opportunity and confident the committee would ultimately help clear his name.

"It really does matter that public behavior and private behavior need to match. If it doesn't, then the things that happen on the House and Senate floor is just an act or a charade that doesn't mean anything," said Julia Vaughn, Common Cause.

The Ethics Committee did say it would begin to work on changing the laws that Rep. Turner did not violate. 

Attorney Toby McClamroch says the committee's report exonerated his client.

Rep. Turner issued a statement after the Committee's decision came down. It read: 

"I'm very appreciative of the House Ethics Committee's decision and clearing my record of service in the Indiana House of Representatives. The Ethics Committee voted unanimously that my brief comments regarding my expertise on the nursing home moratorium issue during the 2014 Legislative Session were consistent with House Rules and the House Code of Ethics.

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

"I always believed I acted clearly within the House rules and the House Code of Ethics while offering my expertise on a particular issue.  A core function of a citizen legislature is for members to bring their expertise to share with other members of the General Assembly.  I offered my expertise on the nursing home moratorium in caucus because I have been involved in the industry as a passive investor in senior care real estate for many years.

"For 24 years, it has been an honor to serve the residents of House District 32 and I look forward to continuing to represent constituents and communities throughout my district in the next session of the Indiana General Assembly."