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Wimberly Bill to Establish Five-Year Pilot Program Encouraging Transparency in Local Municipal, Law Enforcement Hiring Practices Heads to Gov’s Desk

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Benjie Wimberly establishes pilot program in Paterson authorizing non-disclosure of records of certain expungements was given the final legislative ok by the Assembly on Monday. The bill passed 42-32 and now goes to the Governor.

The bill (A-4548) would establish a five-year pilot program for the City of Paterson concerning the disclosure and application of expunged records and information for persons seeking employment within its municipal court system or any of its law enforcement or corrections agencies.

Under the bill, the pilot program would offer an opportunity to determine if the current expungement law prevents too many persons of good or reformed character, who are otherwise well-qualified, from obtaining employment in the judicial branch or with law enforcement or corrections agency. Depending upon results reviewed from the pilot program, changing the disclosure requirements information could be expanded beyond the scope of the pilot program, and perhaps made a permanent and statewide change.

“We have to begin creating opportunity for our youth instead of building brick walls in between them and their dreams,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “If pursuing a career in law enforcement or in the court system is their goal but they have relatively minor infractions and have proven themselves on the right path, then, yes, they should be considered for positions open in the field.”

Specifically, for five years the provisions under current law require that a person seeking employment within the municipality’s municipal court system or law enforcement or correction agencies disclose expunged records and information, and requiring that those expunged materials continue to provide a disability notwithstanding the expungement, would only apply to records and information related to a person’s conviction for an indictable offense (a crime of the fourth degree or higher).

The provisions would not apply to records and information: (1) related to a person’s arrest or charge for a crime, offense, or violation of a municipal ordinance not resulting in a conviction or finding of guilt; or (2) related to a person’s conviction or finding guilt of guilt for a disorderly persons offense, or violation of a municipal ordinance.

At the conclusion of the five-year-period, the City of Paterson would submit a report to the governor, and to the legislature under existing law, on the implementation of the pilot program, which would include a recommendation on the advisability of the continuation, modification, expansion, or termination of the program.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Dec. 14. The Senate complement to Wimberly’s legislation is sponsored by Senators Paul Sarlo and Nellie Pou. It passed the Senate 23-16 in June.