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In re Akinola

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

September 17, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF AYODELE AKINOLA, WOODBRIDGE DEVELOPMENTAL CENTER, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 9, 2013

On appeal from the Civil Service Commission, CSC Docket No. 2013-17.

Lawrence N. Lavigne argued the cause for appellant, Ayodele Akinola.

Peter H. Jenkins, Deputy Attorney General argued the cause for respondent, Woodbridge Developmental Center, Department of Human Services, (John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney; Mr. Jenkins, on the brief).

Before Judges Parrillo and Harris.

PER CURIAM

Appellant Ayodele Akinola appeals from the January 9, 2013 final administrative action of the Civil Service Commission (the Commission), which upheld the Department of Human Services's (the Department's) removal of Akinola from her position as a cottage training technician at the Woodbridge Development Center (the Center). We affirm.

The facts are undisputed.[1] On February 28, 2012, Akinola was assigned to monitor R.B., a developmentally disabled individual, who resided at the Center. According to Akinola's supervisor, Akinola was required to change R.B.'s adult diaper in the course of her duties. As Akinola was assisting R.B., his "hand accidentally went inside [Akinola's] glasses . . . [a]nd as it went inside her glasses, you can imagine as he, . . . making noise, [was] agitated." The supervisor recounted what she saw:

All of a sudden, all I know, Ms. Akinola to me reacted so fast and quickly on the response of that —— you know, him poking her in the eye, moving the glasses up. And slammed like the right . . . side of his face against the wardrobe. She reacted. She —— that's to me, she reacted. I do not believe she did it on purpose, but she reacted.

When the supervisor reproached Akinola for the violence she had just witnessed, Akinola said, "What? What are you talking about? What did I do? I do nothing. He broke my glasses." R.B. was immediately medically checked, and found with "a big red mark on the side of his face, " but was otherwise uninjured.

Akinola was charged by the Department with "[p]hysical abuse of a client" and "conduct unbecoming a State employee." After being removed from employment effective on April 6, 2012, Akinola appealed, and the matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case. After a testimonial hearing on November 2, 2012, the administrative law judge (ALJ) rendered an initial decision on November 21, 2012, sustaining the charges and affirming Akinola's removal.

The ALJ found the version of events as recounted by Akinola's supervisor to be "clear and consistent, " and declared it "credible testimony." As for Akinola's testimony, the ALJ stated that it was not credible. The ALJ found that, at the time Akinola was helping R.B. with the diaper, she was irritated because she was unable to secure any assistance from her supervisor. Thus, although R.B. "poked her in the eye as she was bending from the waist[, ] Akinola then slammed R.B.'s head into the wardrobe of his room with sufficient force to cause redness on the right side of his head."

Based upon this factual determination, the ALJ held that such conduct constituted "physical abuse of a client, " which was ...


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