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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy won’t rule out dissolving chiropractor board

Panel faces bipartisan fire after reinstating sex offender’s license

By Nikita Biryukov, February 26 2021 3:36 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday declined to rule out dissolving the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners for reinstating the license of a Paramus man convicted of convicted for luring or enticing underage girls.

“I saw the action taken by the State Chiropractor Board, which I find reprehensible, frankly. The Attorney General is completely right on this. it is unacceptable, and 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,” he said, adding later that “all options are on the table, period.”

The Board on Thursday denied a motion filed by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal seeking to block the reinstatement of Brian Bajakian’s license, which was suspended in 2010, the same year he was released from prison after being convicted for luring or enticing underage girls and illegally possessing a firearm.

They found Bajakian, who remains on parole and must register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, repeatedly violated an interim order barring him from treating minors without the supervision of a board-approved monitor.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge), who along with ranking member Bob Singer (R-Lakewood) bashed the board’s decision on Thursday, doesn’t appear willing to eliminate the board entirely, instead choosing to focus on its membership.

“I don’t know that the Chiropractor Board as an entity needs to be eliminated,” he told the New Jersey Globe. “The question is how to respond to the judgement of the members. That’s the issue. There are legislative options, and we are exploring all of them.”

State law allows the governor to remove a professional board’s members for “misconduct, incompetency, neglect of duty or for any other sufficient cause” following a hearing. The governor appears to believe those thresholds have been met.

State statute is unclear about the process of such a hearing. In practice, the governor’s counsel designates someone to act as a hearing officer.

The legislature could also dissolve the board and reform it. That would allow the governor to appoint its members from the ground up, while removing holdouts responsible for Bajakian’s reinstatement, which was approved in a 5-0 vote Thursday.

Vitale declined to comment on any specific avenues the legislature could take, though he said was more focused on the board’s membership than anything else.

“They exercised extraordinarily poor judgement in allowing a registered sex offender to continue to treat patients. Having a license to provide medical care in the state of New Jersey is a privilege, not a right,” Vitale said. “And he, in my view, lost that privilege when he put his hands on someone.”

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