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Lawmaker punished for lapse

Loses leadership post over nursing homes

Turner

– House Speaker Brian Bosma on Friday said he is removing state Rep. Eric Turner from the House Republican leadership team and chastised him for not staying out of a legislative debate he had a major financial stake in.

In the spring, Turner, R-Cicero, tried to sway his colleagues in a private House Republican caucus against a moratorium on new nursing homes. The bill died in the waning hours of the legislature.

He acknowledged in a statement that he has an ownership stake in Mainstreet Capital Partners, which has an interest in Mainstreet Property Group. His son, Zeke Turner, is CEO of Mainstreet Property, and his daughter, Jessaca Turner Stults, is Mainstreet’s registered lobbyist.

The business builds nursing homes. Turner claimed the construction ban would have had “no significant effect” on Mainstreet’s business model, but a report by The Associated Press said he stood to lose millions in future profits.

A House Ethics Committee review found Turner did not break the rules, which say a member with a conflict of interest cannot vote on or sponsor legislation affecting him or her personally. He did neither.

Since then, the AP reported that a company that was part of the ethics investigation was sold to an Ohio company as part of a $2.3 billion deal.

“Given the recently disclosed magnitude of Rep. Turner’s personal and family financial interest in the outcome of the nursing home moratorium debate, any involvement in the decision-making process, whether in public debate or through private discussions with fellow elected officials, presented an irreconcilable conflict,” Bosma said.

“Rep. Turner should have recused himself entirely from influencing the matter in any way given the personal financial stake involved.”

Bosma said the House Ethics Committee reached the correct conclusion under the current law but the process revealed significant gaps that must be addressed.

He plans to present a comprehensive ethics bill to address many of these issues during the 2015 session.

Bosma also said he decided weeks ago that Turner would not be part of leadership when the House reconvenes in November. Turner was House speaker pro tem.

“Calls for resignation or removal at this point mean little, as the General Assembly is officially adjourned until after the November election,” Bosma said. “My greatest concern is restoring the confidence of the public in their elected officials.”

Bosma’s statement came in response to a Friday news conference by Turner’s Democratic opponent, Bob Ashley.

In his statement, Bosma said he does not “typically respond to self-serving requests by legislative candidates” but felt it was necessary in the interest of government transparency and accountability.

Turner responded in a statement, saying it was an honor to serve under Bosma.

“I have remained committed to serving the speaker, our caucus, and the Indiana House with the highest integrity,” he said. “I serve at the pleasure of the speaker of the House and respect his decision for the next term. I look forward to continuing as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives and serving the citizens of my district.”

nkelly@jg.net

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