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Hyland v. Kehayas

Decided: March 15, 1978.


Matthews, Crane and Antell. The opinion of the court was delivered by Antell, J.A.D.


[157 NJSuper Page 260] On complaint of the Attorney General the Board of Professional Planners revoked respondent's certificate of license as a professional planner issued on July 15, 1968. The revocation order was entered on May 25, 1977 on the ground of misconduct in the practice of professional planning, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:14A-15, and for lack of the good moral character required for licensure under N.J.S.A. 45:14A-9(a)(1).

On June 6, 1974, after a trial by jury, respondent was found guilty together with others of conspiring to influence the planning board of Monroe Township by offering bribes in connection with the adoption of certain ordinances, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:98-1, and of giving a bribe of money to a member of the town council, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:93-6 and N.J.S.A. 2A:85-14. He was sentenced to serve two concurrent terms of one year in the Middlesex County Workhouse, six months of which was suspended, placed on probation for two years and fined $1,000 on each count. We affirmed the convictions in an unreported opinion on December 16, 1975 and on May 4, 1976 the Supreme Court denied respondent's petition for certification. State v. Kehayas , 70 N.J. 516 (1976).

On this appeal respondent contends that the board was barred from revoking his license by reason of the fact that he presented a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to the Rehabilitated Convicted Offenders Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:168A-3. That statute provides:

The presentation to a licensing authority * * * of a certificate * * * of the Chief Probation Officer of * * * a county, who has supervised the applicant's probation, that the applicant has achieved a degree of rehabilitation indicating that his engaging in the proposed employment would not be incompatible with the welfare of society shall preclude a licensing authority from disqualifying or discriminating against the applicant.

The enactment must be read as part of a composite whole. Alexander v. N.J. Power & Light Co. , 21 N.J. 373, 378 (1956); 2A Sutherland, Statutory Construction (3 ed. 1973) §§ 51.01 and 51.02. Section 1 recites its purpose is to remove impediments to obtaining employment based "solely" upon the existence of a criminal record and specifically excepts from the restriction upon disqualification cases where "the conviction relates adversely to the occupation, trade, vocation, profession or business for which the license or certificate is sought."

Section 2 expressly declares that the licensing authority may "disqualify or discriminate" in such cases and mandates that it relate its determination to eight specified factors touching the circumstances of the conviction and the applicant's rehabilitation. Respondent argues, in substance, that the provision in § 3 whereby the licensing authority is precluded from disqualifying or discriminating upon the presentation of a certificate of rehabilitation is intended to be controlling even in cases where the crime relates adversely to the profession.

Setting aside the question of whether, as a licensee, not an "applicant," he even falls within the protected class, respondent's argument overlooks the fact that the action under review does not involve disqualification or discrimination because of a conviction of crime. The determination by the board consisted of a revocation for misconduct, a standard which does not depend upon a criminal conviction. Hence the provisions of the Rehabilitated Convicted Offenders Act are inapplicable notwithstanding that the underlying misconduct may have also given rise to a criminal conviction. Were we to conclude otherwise it would follow that those licensees whose misconduct results in criminal convictions and who are therefore eligible to be considered for a certificate of rehabilitation are protected from revocation whereas those whose misconduct falls short of criminality are not. We will not ascribe so illogical a purpose to the legislative intent. State v. Gill , 47 N.J. 441, 444 (1966); Marranca v. Habro , 41 N.J. 569, 574 (1964). Respondent's argument that this might have been intended as a means of easing the hardships and disabilities customarily accompanying conviction of crime does not persuade us to the contrary.

In its findings of fact the Board of Professional Planners noted that at the time of his criminal conduct respondent was then employed by the Monroe Township Planning Board as a professional planner and that the criminal episode arose directly from his professional employment. In its conclusions the board observed that professional planning services have

among their goals those of guiding government policy for the assurance of orderly and coordinated development of land use, safeguarding life, health and property, and promotion of the public welfare. Measured against these standards the board concluded that respondent's role in the events leading to his conviction constituted a corruption of his professional responsibility and a perversion of the object of professional planning. It further reasoned that respondent's conviction for the crimes described was "conclusively evidential of the fact that he engaged in these acts" which the board then concluded constituted "misconduct in the practice of professional planning." Consideration was given respondent's evidence attesting to his good conduct and rehabilitation but it was observed that this "cannot outweigh the gravity of the crimes for which respondent has been convicted and the fact that they relate adversely to the practice of professional planning, including the necessity of the public to repose trust and confidence in the licensed professional planner."

We are satisfied that the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record considering the proofs as a whole and with due regard to the agency's expertise. Close v. Kordulak Bros. , 44 N.J. ...

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