INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An ethics panel cleared House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner of wrongdoing
Wednesday for fighting a measure that would have cost him millions of
dollars in profits, but it urged lawmakers to strengthen the disclosure
rules for public officials.
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.
In a letter to
Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, the House Ethics Committee said
Turner’s actions exposed a weakness in the system.
committee does not find that a technical violation has occurred, we are
concerned that Representative Turner’s actions have not achieved the highest
spirit of transparency. Remaining questions about his conduct, while he is
in compliance with our rules, give us concern that our rules do not require
enough disclosure,” the committee wrote.
Turner did not
attend Wednesday’s meeting or the first ethics meeting on the issue last
week. His lawyer, Toby McClamroch, who sat through both meetings, said the
panel’s decision “exonerates” Turner and that the lawmaker would likely
participate in any change in the ethics rules.
“If the Legislature
would like to look at the code of ethics and recommend changes to the
legislative body, I mean Rep Turner will help in that process. I think we’re
aware from this of some of the changes they may want to look at and he’s
more than happy to help,” McClamroch said.
investigation is the first internal review of a House member in nearly two
decades. Bosma called for the investigation last month following reports
that Turner lobbied against the construction ban in private meetings of the
House Republican caucus during the final two days of the 2014 legislative
laws bar lawmakers from taking formal actions to benefit themselves, such as
casting specific votes, but also encourage lawmakers to offer their
“expertise” in debates.
Turner thanked the
ethics panel in a statement for “clearing” him and said he was clearly
offering his perspective on the nursing home industry, not pressuring
“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,” he said in the statement.
The panel’s top
Democrat, Rep. Clyde Kersey, of Terre Haute, said Turner has exposed holes
in an ethics code that has not been changed in roughly 20 years.
“I think this whole
thing brought out the fact that we need to make some changes, make things
more transparent and call for full disclosure,” he said.
For instance Turner
listed on his latest economic disclosure form that he is invested in
Mainstreet Capital Partners but did not note that company’s connection to
Mainstreet Property Group. A Mainstreet Property Group document obtained by
the AP shows that Turner owns half of Mainstreet Capital Partners, which
owns 76 percent of Mainstreet Property Group.
Star reported that Turner stopped listing the names of nursing home
companies he was invested in through another company, T3 Investments, in
2006. Turner’s wrote in testimony submitted to the ethics panel that he did
not believe he needed to disclose those connections.
Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, said the committee would meet in the
coming months and look to have recommendations ready before lawmakers return
for their 2015 session in January.
“I expect a full
review of all the rules, the code of ethics, as well as the statute,” he