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May 22, 2014

RONN MOTT: Ethics

Somehow or other, in the days when I was a student, I never had a class in ethics. Since I started being interested in history at an early age, I remember something Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, said. (He was a tutor to Alexander the Great.) Not quoting verbatim, he said greed always gets in the way of good ethics.

In April, the House convened an ethics committee to look at Indiana House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, because he used his position and leaned on his friends to stall a development of multiple projects that would have cost him millions of dollars. He lobbied behind closed doors to stop the legislation that would have cost Turner a lot of money. He has an ownership stake in Mainstreet Property Group. The measure he was against was a five-year ban that would have stalled the development he wanted to see through.

Obviously, Mr. Turner has many friends and associates in the Republican-controlled legislature. Here is a measure that had a very good chance of passing, but Turner’s activity helped stop it. It could have been considered a direct conflict of interest.

Others in the House have been investigated for similar things, taking kickbacks and bribes, and being involved personally in laws they did not want, or wanted for financial gain.

Turner should have recused himself completely from the discussion because of the amount of money involved he was fighting against and if it had passed it would have cost him millions of dollars.

Every elected legislator is sent to the House of Representatives in Indianapolis to do the right thing for the state of Indiana. I have no idea if this construction ban measure would have been the right thing for Indiana, but this vested interest in the nursing home company and the political maneuvering to keep it from happening stinks to high heaven.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. The Republican majority has had a total disregard for what is good for the state. They have such a majority, the minority doesn’t stand even a chance of being heard or listened to. They have disregarded the Constitution of our state, so why would we be surprised to learn that a multi-millionaire, Mr. Turner, would do what he has done?

We make a mistake in America by making judgments about people based on their wealth. The assumption is, if you have made a lot of money, you must be smart. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it ain’t necessarily so. Remember that old Greek philosopher; ethics get shoved aside more often than not for individual greed.

I am not a philosopher, nor do I have any educational credentials when it comes to ethics. Simply put, I understand it this way: When you are not operating against the law, you might stop and think about what is the right thing to do. It isn’t easy and it does not often happen. Those who are not profiting from someone else’s greed need to remember this because it often hurts someone, and many times, many someones.

Davey Crockett, who died at the Alamo, had a slogan: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” Rep. Turner may not have broken any law, but as sure as Davey Crockett is no longer alive, Turner was not right in what he did. He will profit from this.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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