Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

March 17, 2014

Turner worked to nix nursing home ban

Representative accused of conflict of interest for entering debate

(Continued)

Eric Turner's children, Zeke Turner and Jessaca Turner Stults, were on the other side of the debate with developers and trade unions, arguing that building new nursing homes meant creating thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in economic development.

Mainstreet Property Group LLC, a development company run by Zeke Turner and founded in part by Eric Turner, is in the process of developing five projects that the company believes will result in $162 million in economic impact throughout the state.

Publicly, Eric Turner stayed out of the fight. In a pair of House committee hearings on the issue, he did not talk openly about the issue and excused himself from voting twice because of the conflict of interest.

Zeke Turner and others launched a last-minute campaign at the end of the session, bringing in top-tier Republican and Democratic lobbyists to sway lawmakers. But it was his father's decision to swoop in last Wednesday as the session raced to a close that became deciding factor in defeating the nursing home measure, said another Republican with direct knowledge of Turner's efforts.

A message left Monday with a Mainstreet Property spokeswoman seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday.

Lawmakers are often asked to recuse themselves from issues that benefit themselves or their direct family, said David Orentlicher, a law professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and a former Democratic representative.

But in a part-time Legislature, where lawmakers have outside jobs, it can be hard to avoid every potential conflict, he said.

Orentlicher said that if Turner thought it was necessary to recuse himself from voting on the issue in public, he should be equally transparent about his efforts in private.

"Caucus should figure out the policy to address this type of situation especially because you're doing it where it is behind closed doors, so the need is even greater," he said.

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