NJ Senate approves bill that would ban sex offenders from medical licensing

New Jersey

The Senate conducts business at the state house in Trenton, N.J., Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. The prospects of a vote on legislation to eliminate most religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren in New Jersey looked uncertain Monday, according to the bill’s sponsor, as opponents crowded the Statehouse grounds with flags, bullhorns and banners. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey State Senate unanimously approved a bill Friday that would prohibit the licensing of any health care worker convicted of a sexual offense.

The bill would also reform the state’s chiropractor board after a registered sex offender on lifetime parole in Florida had his license reinstated by that board.

Bryan Bajakian, who practiced out of Mahwah, had his license reinstated recently by the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Bajakian is a registered sex offender in both New Jersey and Florida, having spent two stints in jail for multiple counts of luring or enticing a child as well as unlawful possession of a firearm. He was released from a New Jersey correctional facility on Feb. 9, 2017 and is on lifetime parole and is not allowed to to see patients under the age of 18 unsupervised.

New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was disappointed by the decision at the time.

“The Attorney General’s Office is committed to rooting out sexual misconduct in all its forms, and has continuously called on the state’s professional licensing boards to take seriously their obligation to protect members of the public from sexual misconduct by licensees,” an office of the attorney general spokesperson told PIX11 News in a statement. “In light of the egregious facts of this case, we are disappointed that the Board of Chiropractic Examiners has allowed Bryan Bajakian to resume practice, and are reviewing the board’s decision.”

The attorney general previously tried to file a motion to deny the license but had it rejected by the board.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was questioned about the issue during his Friday coronavirus briefing and agreed with Grewal.

“The attorney general is completely right on this,” Murphy said. “It is unacceptable and the folks who voted to reinstate this guy should hear this loud and clear. We will be looking very carefully and very soon at the makeup of that board.”

The bill, S-3494, would add two public members to the 11-person chiropractic board and expand its responsibilities in reviewing the qualifications of applicants for new or renewed licenses. The legislation would also ban anyone convicted of a felony sexual offense from being licensed as a health care professional, including as a chiropractor.  

“Giving a convicted sex offender the sanctioned permission to return to the practice was irresponsible and illogical,” said New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney. “Reforms are obviously needed to make sure the board makes the health and safety of the people of New Jersey its top priority. More public members will bring additional oversight and more rigorous background checks will help prevent this from happening again.” 

The corresponding bill in the New Jersey State Assembly remains in committee.

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