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Ethics committee meets to discuss lawmaker’s private plea to kill nursing home bill

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 23, 2014)– A committee of lawmakers met Wednesday to hear the case of a top Indiana lawmaker, accused of using his influence to stop a bill that could have potentially lost millions of dollars for his family business.

In the final days of this year’s legislative session, State Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, is accused of privately lobbying fellow Republicans during a caucus session to kill a bill that would have put a moratorium on new nursing homes. Turner’s family owns a nursing home business.

Turner was not present at the hearing Wednesday, but did submit responses to written questions from committee members.

His attorney met with reporters after lawmakers adjourned.

“Before he made his comments in caucus, he preceded those comments by advising the caucus of his interest in nursing homes,” claimed Turner’s attorney, Toby McClamroch.

Turner did not vote on the bill. And committee members seemed to agree that Turner may not have broken any rules by discussing the issue in caucus.

Ethics committee members said they would take time to review the case, before meeting again next Wednesday.

“We’ll be looking at the entire House ethics rules,” said Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, the committee’s ranking minority member. “Look for changes, more transparency, and making government more open.”

Turner issued the following statement after Wednesday’s hearing:

“I thank Chairman Steuerwald and the House Ethics Committee for conducting a thorough review of the facts and I was pleased to answer the questions presented to me. I am confident the Ethics Committee will conclude that I have acted within the House Rules and the House Code of Ethics, as I have for my entire 24 year legislative career.”

Turner is running for re-election this year, and is being challenged in the Republican primary by Parvin Gillim, an architect from Sheridan.

Turner’s son, Zeke, is the CEO & chairman of Carmel-based Mainstreet. Zeke Turner spoke with FOX59 earlier this year about the legislation, which he said would have taken many potential jobs away from Hoosier workers. Turner said many other companies were also opposing the legislation, in both the health and construction sectors.

“We will do at least 16 projects in 2014. That’s an investment of at least $375 million and if we can’t do those projects here in Indiana, we’ll do it elsewhere, but that would be a shame not to be able to do them here in this state,” Zeke Turner said. “There’s demand in the local market otherwise these projects wouldn’t be successful and we don’t want to be stopped from doing what we do.”

When asked about the potential conflict of his interest for his father, Zeke Turner said: “It’s actually not complicated because this is my business, I run it. We happen to have the same last name, he happens to be in politics, so people want to make some story out of that (but) there’s nothing there.”