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Democratic lawmaker seeks tougher Indiana rules, financial sanctions after ethics conflict

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INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana House Democrat is calling for a new ethics rule designed to close loopholes exposed by departing Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner.

Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis issued a letter to media outlets Wednesday saying lawmakers should enact a new "Turner Rule" that bars them from "any legislative activity" on issues in which they have money at stake.

During private meetings of House Republicans this year, Turner fought legislation that would have halted construction of nursing homes, skirting state ethics rules on conflicts of interest. An Associated Press investigation found his family's nursing home business, Mainstreet Property Group, stood to lose millions in possible profits if a construction ban was approved.

Turner has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He announced last week that he would resign in November if re-elected but has rejected calls from his opponent, Democrat Bob Ashley, to step down now.

The House Ethics Committee cleared Turner of wrongdoing in April but determined he exposed loopholes in state ethics laws. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma announced last month that he would remove Turner from leadership and work on ethics reforms during the 2015 session.

DeLaney said the case illustrates the need to broaden the House rule governing self-interest, which he said was too specific.

"This rule forbids speaking and voting on matters of serious personal financial interest. It should be expanded to expressly forbid any legislative activity on a matter seriously affecting oneself, including lobbying one's fellow members," Delaney wrote.

He said that by making his case during caucus discussions, Turner in effect became a lobbyist, not a legislator.

Turner has said he plans to take a job with a Christian megachurch group in Atlanta.

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