News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 18, 2014

EDITORIAL: More needed from Speaker

Speaker Bosma missed chance to be aggressive on ethical lapses

The Tribune-Star

---- — Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma did what most people expected he would do in the wake of Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner’s ethics probe. He announced Tuesday he would not sanction Turner, but that the House would review ethics rules and consider tightening them.

Bosma could have — and should have — done more.

As the Associated Press explained in a Tuesday story, Turner helped defeat a proposed ban on the construction of new nursing homes, which would have cost him millions in future earnings.

The House Ethics Committee conducted a probe of Turner’s actions and found that he did not technically violate any of the state’s ethics rules. That’s because he fought the legislation in private meetings of the House Republican Caucus and not the chamber of the House or in committee meetings.

But the Ethics Committee didn’t completely dismiss the ethics complaint. Its report stated that Turner violated the “spirit” of ethics laws and exposed loopholes that should be tightened. As Bosma noted, that work is under way.

By brushing aside the matter for now, Bosma missed an opportunity to take a hard line on ethics and declare his commitment to restoring legislative credibility. Turner’s actions were not inconsequential and demand greater attention and scrutiny.

The nursing home ban Turner fought so ferociously in private would have blocked multiple projects being developed by Mainstreet Property Group, a company Turner co-owns with his son and others.

According to the AP, the state is providing $345,000 in tax credits for a project in Terre Haute that Mainstreet documents show will earn Turner an expected $1.8 million.

At the very least, Bosma should have made a public statement that leaves no doubt about his commitment to ethics and integrity in the Indiana House of Representatives. As Speaker, he has that platform. This would have been an appropriate spot to use it.

More stringent ethics rules are needed to prevent similar transgressions in the future. Bosma needs to actively and publicly lead that charge.