Trenton – Acting in response to the “irresponsible” action by the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners in renewing the professional license of a convicted child sex offender, the Senate approved legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Joe Vitale that would reform the board and prohibit the licensing of any health care worker convicted of a sex offense.
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 Senator 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 Chiropractic Board voted to reinstate the license of Bryan K. Bajakian, a registered sex offender in Florida who is on lifetime parole, has been convicted of luring and firearms charges, ordered not to see patients younger than 18 without supervision, and accused of being “engaged in sexual misconduct toward an underage patient.”
“The idea that the state board representing practicing chiropractors could vote unanimously to reinstate the license of a convicted sex offender is a slap in the face to people everywhere who have faced the trauma of sexual misconduct,” said Senator Weinberg. “By reinstating the chiropractic license of Bajakian, the board placed others, including the most vulnerable, in harm’s way, and thus it had to be reformed.”
“No sex offender should be allowed to work in a position of trust with patients in healthcare settings where they are most vulnerable, especially with children,” said Senator Vitale, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Denying them licenses should be automatic. The oversight board should be looking out for the safety of patients and the public, not the industry they are regulating.”
Under the bill, any entity that licenses or regulates a health care profession would be prohibited from issuing an initial license or renewal without checking the individual’s criminal history through a fingerprint background check or the National Practitioner Data Bank for sexual offense convictions, endangering the welfare of a child, or attempting to lure or entice a child.
The measure was approved by the Senate with a vote of 38-0.