My biggest disappointment has been a decision from the NC Real Estate Commission to deny my being licensed as a real estate agent after much time, money and effort put forward to achieve that goal. It seemed like a heaven-sent opportunity to avoid the “thou shalt not hire ex-felons” that I’ve encountered over 450 times in the last few years since my release and, while I knew that because of the felony on my record it would not be an automatic licensure once I’d completed the Pre-Licensing Class (Chris Barnette’s class at Go School ROCKS!!!) and passed the state exam. All of that was accomplished this past July and I eagerly (silly boy) awaited the Commission’s response to my application.
When that response did come it was the most severe possible. They essentially said that I lacked the requisite characteristics required of real estate agents (honesty, integrity, good moral character among others), but if I wanted to contest that I was welcome to do so. Many encouraged me to pursue this and after consulting with my beloved, elected to do so by consulting with Bill Gifford to represent me before the Commission.
We gathered witnesses, several of whom knew the old Tony BP/BC (Before Prison/Before Christ) as well as those who I’ve come to know and love since my release. Bill spoke with those witnesses and I began to feel an inkling of hope that this would work out for us even with what seemed willingness on the part of the counsel for the Commission to retry my case all over again as part of the hearing.
We all arrived at the Commission’s office on Navajo Drive in Raleigh and I was humbled and encouraged by the statements made by the witnesses on my behalf. Those listening, including the Board members, also seemed impressed by the caliber of those testifying for me and I began to feel we had a good chance of carrying the day. Then it was my turn; it seemed from the start that the Counsel and his assistant were indeed focused solely upon my trial from 1988 and hammered again and again at my statements and behavior back then. What was especially frustrating for me is how they seemed to ridicule my faith in Christ and the efforts I’ve made to volunteer with different organizations as just a ploy used in order to gain favor to obtain my real estate license.
When the Commission’s counsel presented their case it only got worse as they dragged every negative thing they could find regarding my past behavior and my lack of candor regarding my crime until recently. As they closed their case against me, they posted on the overhead projector an email I’d sent to the Commission as part of my application for licensure where they claimed I’d not taken responsibility for my crime. I can understand why someone who did not know me would think that, but this seemed to seal my chances to obtain a positive outcome from the Commission. Bill did a wonderful job of summing up the evidence of my change over the years, but I felt it was not enough when I looked at the Commissioner’s faces as they listened.
We waited for about two hours (I think that’s about how long it took for them) and when they came in it was with grim faces and the Chairman of the Commission confirmed it when he declared that I was not to be granted a license to practice as a real estate agent.
What happens now? I really have no idea except to once again start pumping out resumes in the hopes of finding full-time work.
One thing helped provide some perspective on the events of that day; the Maundy Thursday service at the Chapel Hill Bible church in which I participated as a member of the choir began within two hours of the ending of the hearing. We’d had our usual weekly rehearsal the evening before the hearing and having the hearing bookmarked (as it were) with both the rehearsal and service in which we focused upon the only Person ever to be totally innocent and yet treated so unfairly was an opportunity for me to reflect on eternity versus today. Yes, what my wife and I endured that day was tough, but the King is still on the throne and has a purpose and plan for me that is yet unseen, but no less glorious.