No Discipline for Eric Turner for Ethics Issues

The Indiana Legislature’s ethics rules are not “strong.” Consequently, Rep. Eric Turner did not violate them when lobbying for legislative action or inaction that concerned millions of dollars in investments for him and his family.

Jim Shella, writing for WISHTV reports that the House Ethics Committee will vote next week but that it will be a formality. There are no rules about what a member can say or do in a private caucus which is apparently where Turner did the heavy lifting in his efforts to kill a bill that would have put a crimp in his family’s nursing home development business.

Turner, a Cicero Republican, did send written responses to committee questions and Chairman Greg Steuerwald read some of them aloud including one where Turner said, “I violated neither House rules, nor the code of ethics.”

It’s all about legislation that could benefit the Mainstreet Property Group, a nursing home company that builds upscale facilities. It’s owned by Rep. Turner’s son and Turner is an investor.

During a private GOP caucus, Turner argued against a nursing home moratorium that would hurt the company. He admitted to doing so in a written response.

“I offered my particular expertise on the nursing home industry and the nursing home moratorium,” he said in answer read aloud by Steuerwald.

The committee found that there are no rules that apply to private caucuses.

One thing I found remarkable is that Turner only had to provide written responses to interrogatories for the committee. He was never required to sit for a deposition or to give live testimony to the committee. He didn’t even show up for the hearing. Interrogatory responses are a poor substitute for live questioning. It’s dead easy to draft interrogatory responses that technically answer the question ask but which are equivocal and avoid answering directly those points you’d rather not address.

But, if there are no ethics rules or they are very weak, then it’s likely that Turner didn’t in fact break them. So there is not much more that the committee can do — even if it were so inclined. That speaks to a need for developing a set of rules that are more substantial than the fig leaf the General Assembly currently has.

Comments

  1. Carlito Brigante says

    Turner has no more expertise on the nursing home industry and the moratorium than a sophomore economics major. It is pellucid that more nursing homes will skim private pay residents off existing facilities, leaving them with more low reimbursement Medicaid residents. In a full time legislature, industries pay lobbyists and make campaign “contributions” to obtain favorable legislation. In a part-time legislature cesspool like Indiana, the stakeholders merely get elected to office and engage directly in the political process for personal gain. When I lived in Indy, NUVO consistently called the Indiana legislature in America. Nothing appears to have changed.

  2. Gayl Killough says

    I work with the local homeless agencies and we have a dire need of more nursing facility beds, yet this legislation limits the number of nursing facility beds statewide, and it seems to be mostly for the benefit of the current nursing facilities. Where is the investigation into the ethics violation of the other side, for those that would limit nursing facilities beds, when we have an established growing need for them. I find it hard to believe that there are not ethical violations happening on the other side of this legislation, even if a less apparent conflict of interest, and I wish that would be brought out too in the media.

    This is a tough one because Eric Turner does seem to know more about nursing facility beds than those that don’t have a conflict of interest. Those that know the most are the most likely to have a conflict of interest, but they still have valuable information to offer. I read elsewhere that he refrained from voting, which is what officially counts the most as conflict of interest. It is a really grey area, but if I was voting for legislation that limits the number of nursing facility beds, I would the input of someone who actually knows something about nursing facilities, even if they are a legislator. It is tough to find the balance between experts and conflict of interest. It is tough to be silent when one has passionate beliefs. It is also tough to keep quiet on what one may know better than the others who are voting. I feel for Eric Turner on this one.

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