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Staff

Staff of Disability Rights NC

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Charlie Barnes - Chief Financial Officer

Charlie began working for Disability Rights NC when it became the State's protection and advocacy agency on July 1, 2007. As the Chief Financial Officer, he oversees the accounting functions of the agency. Charlie has over 25 years experience in nonprofit accounting, having worked 23 years with North Carolina Easter Seals and one year with the NC Partnership for Children (Smart Start) prior to joining Disability Rights NC. He received a Master's of Business Administration degree from Campbell University and has been a Certified Public Accountant since 1982. When Charlie is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, participating in church activities, reading or exercising. He has completed numerous marathons and ultra-marathons, including three 100-mile endurance runs.

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Karla Blackwell - Administrative Assistant

Karla was born and raised in Raleigh, NC. She has several family members who are disabled ranging from hearing impaired, cerebral palsy, heart condition, sarcoidosis, and depression. She has studied Computer Science at St. Augustine's College, Medical Assistance at Wake Technical Community College, and now is proud to say she is a team member of Disability Rights NC. She has had the opportunity of learning and becoming proficient with alphabetic sign language. Over the years, she has obtained several customer service awards that represent her love of assisting the community. She devotes her spare time to various church functions, helping the homeless and less fortunate, and recently started visiting a nursing home to put a smile on faces by providing hair care services.

Gabriella Bush

Gabriella Bush- Investigator

Gabby joined the Disability Rights NC team in November 2010 as its first Outreach Specialist. In April 2015, she moved to the Investigations & Monitoring Unit to investigate conditions in facilities across the state where people with disabilities live. She graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a bachelor’s of science degree in Human Development and Family Studies. Before coming to Disability Rights NC, she interned with the Family Assistance Program at the Ronald McDonald House in Winston-Salem. In her work as the Outreach Specialist at Disability Rights NC, Gabby met thousands of North Carolinians with disabilities, presenting on various topics such as the history of the protection and advocacy system and how to be a better self-advocate. She became an Advocate in 2013 to reflect her increased role in investigations and monitoring, but she continues to conduct trainings throughout the state. When she is not working, you can find Gabby hanging out with her family and her Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters, volunteering and listening to Jimmy Buffett.

Corye Dunn

Corye Dunn - Director of Public Policy

Before joining Disability Rights NC in 2011, Corye practiced law in a small firm. Corye has served as a direct care provider to adults and children with developmental disabilities and has worked in nonprofits seeking to expand access to education and increase investment in low-wealth communities. Corye was born and raised in Durham. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and NC Central University School of Law.

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Yasmin Farahi - Attorney

Yasmin joined Disability Rights NC in February 2014 as a member of the Community Access Team, working with clients who are facing barriers to full participation in community life. Prior to joining Disability Rights NC, Yasmin was a staff attorney at Legal Services of Southern Piedmont in Charlotte, NC and spent over a year with the Maryland Disability Law Center in Baltimore, MD. Shenes graduated with honors from N.C. State University in 2006 with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy and received her law degree from New York University School of Law. After moving up and down the east coast, she is happy to be back in North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and exploring the local food scene.

Carolina Farmer

Carolina Farmer - Intake Specialist

Carolina joined Disability Rights NC in October 2014. She enjoys helping people with disabilities and gets to do that daily as she speaks to people who need help protecting their rights. Carolina grew up in New York City and moved to Raleigh in 2013 with her son, Lyiam. She enjoys spending her weekends exploring North Carolina with her son, husband, and daughter Isabella.

Virginia Fogg

Virginia Fogg - Senior Attorney

Virginia joined Disability Rights in September 2014 as a member of the Education team. Her legal background includes representing children in special education and discipline matters for six years in her solo law practice. She grew up in Wilson and attended UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergraduate. Virginia received her law degree from Columbia Law School in 1994. While in law school, she served as the Executive Editor of the Journal of Law and Social Problems and represented parents with children in the New York City foster care system through the law school's Family Advocacy Clinic. After law school she clerked for the NC Supreme Court, then practiced class action litigation and transactional law in northern California. Virginia enjoys working to resolve special education and discipline issues to help ensure positive outcomes for children and families. She is married, has two children, and spends her free time attending sporting events and exploring the Triangle food scene.

Enid Gonzalez

Enid Gonzalez - Accounting Assistant

Enid joined Disability Rights NC’s Accounting Department in February 2017. She was born and raised in New York, where she worked in the marketing finance department of an international food-and-beverage company and for a franchise management group. Then in 2015, she relocated to North Carolina with her husband, Angelo. They have two adult sons, Adam and Eric, who are pursuing careers in New York. Enid and Angelo enjoy taking weekend trips to the beaches and mountains of North Carolina in their travel trailer with their two dogs, Milo and Lexi. They also travel to New York frequently to spend time with their boys. Both Enid and her husband have family members with disabilities, and she is proud to work for an organization that devotes its time and resources to protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

Lisa Grafstein

Lisa Grafstein - Managing Attorney

Lisa joined Disability Rights NC in 2011. She works on issues related to employment and access to public places. Prior to joining Disability Rights NC, Lisa was in private practice beginning in 1995, working primarily in the area of employment law. Since 2007, she has been included in Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite,” including its employment law Hall of Fame, and has been included in North Carolina Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America for employment law. She was listed among the top 50 women lawyers in North Carolina by North Carolina Super Lawyers in 2011. She received the 2012 Gwyneth B. Davis award from the NC Association of Women Attorneys. Lisa has served as Chair of the Labor & Employment Law Section of the NC Bar Association, President of the NC Association of Women Attorneys, and as a board member for several nonprofits. Lisa graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in English Literature and received her law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Iris Green

Iris Green - Senior Attorney

Iris spearheads Disability Rights NC’s fight for children's rights. She began her legal career with Legal Aid of North Carolina/Advocates for Children Services in the summer of 2001. In 2005, she began working for North Carolina’s protection and advocacy system as a staff attorney in the fields of special education and assistive technology. Iris' current work focuses on addressing the needs of children with mental illness and developmental disabilities. When Iris is not working, she continues to advocate for children in her community through St. Paul A.M.E. Sunday School and Christian Debutantes Masters Program, NAACP, Democracy North Carolina and Psi Sigma Omega Chapter of AKA Sorority, Inc. Iris grew up in the small town of Timmonsville, South Carolina. She received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from South Carolina State University in 1986 and her law degree from North Carolina Central University in 2001.

Matthew Herr

Matthew Herr - Policy Analyst

Matthew joined Disability Rights NC in 2016 as a Policy Analyst. He decided go to law school and become a disability advocate after working extensively with children who have disabilities. While in school, Matthew was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which only reinforced his commitment to “walking the walk” as a disability advocate. Matthew graduated from UNC School of Law with honors in 2014 and then clerked for Chief Judge Linda McGee at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. While not at work, Matthew enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, exploring North Carolina’s natural beauty, cooking delicious food, and brewing beer.

Dylan Hix

Dylan Hix - Attorney

Dylan joined Disability Rights NC in August 2017 after practicing for six years in the areas of civil litigation and government investigations at a law firm in Washington, D.C. Dylan’s work at Disability Rights NC centers on helping individuals with disabilities live in the most integrated community setting. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and a juris doctorate from Northwestern University. Dylan is licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C. and is not licensed in North Carolina.

Chris Hodgson

Chris Hodgson - Attorney

Chris joined Disability Rights NC in August 2015. He received a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University, a master’s degree from Texas A&M University, and a juris doctorate degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law. Chris developed his passion for disability rights prior to law school as a direct care aide, case manager, and day program coordinator.

Lucy Ireland

Lucy Ireland - Attorney

Lucy joined Disability Rights NC in August 2015 as a Disability Law Fellow on the Special Education Team. Lucy was raised in Chapel Hill, received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Indiana University, and received her law degree from UNC School of Law. Lucy’s brother has autism and, as a result, she has always been passionate about advocating for individuals with disabilities. Lucy worked in California after college, but moved back to North Carolina in order to attend law school and pursue a career in disability law.

Mavis Jones

Mavis Jones - Office Manager

Mavis has worked with Disability Rights NC since it became the state's P&A in 2007. She previously worked with the Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities for 20 years. Mavis has an associate's degree in Business Administration. She has family members who have disabilities and enjoys working for an organization that upholds the rights of all people with disabilities.

Emma Kinyanjui

Emma Kinyanjui - Senior Attorney

Emma joined Disability Rights NC in September 2016. She began her legal career as a Clifton Everett Fellow in the Morganton Office of Legal Aid of North Carolina, where she represented low income clients in housing, benefit, and consumer related issues. After completing her fellowship, she continued working for Legal Aid for seven years as a staff attorney, supervising attorney, and eventually as the Managing Attorney of the Smithfield Office. Emma also worked as a Director in the Office for Career Services at N.C. Central School of Law before returning to her first passion, helping individuals receive the rights and services to which they are entitled. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hollins University and her law degree from N.C. Central University School of Law.

Rita Landeta

Rita Landeta - Receptionist

Rita lives in Durham and has worked as a legal assistant at various law firms. She loves spending time volunteering and helping her community. For fun she practices Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), reads, and rides her motorcycle. Rita is fluent in Spanish and English and is looking forward to getting her paralegal certification. She has two beautiful children—one with ADD and one with ADHD and a speech impairment.

Tadra Martin

Tadra Martin - Attorney

Tadra joined Disability Rights NC in January 2015. Although she is originally from South Carolina, Tadra is a proud Tar Heel. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her law degree from Vanderbilt Law School. For over five years, she represented low-income individuals in various areas of civil law as a staff attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina. Prior to joining Disability Rights NC, Tadra conducted unemployment appeals hearings as a legal specialist at the NC Division of Employment Security. Tadra’s work at Disability Rights NC will focus on protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities to live in the most integrated community setting.

Kishona Mimms

Kishona Mimms - Investigator

Kishona joined Disability Rights NC in June 2012 as an Investigator for the Investigations & Monitoring Unit. She relocated from New York with her husband and two children in 2009. Kishona graduated from Touro College in 2000 with a  bachelor's degree in Political Science. She obtained a master’s degree in Urban Policy/Public Administration from Brooklyn College in 2007. Kishona worked for seven years as a Paralegal in the Sex Crimes/Special Victims Bureau of the King’s County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, NY where she conducted Child Abuse Investigations. She also spent two years working as an Associate Investigator for the NYC Department of Education in the Special Education Unit. Kishona loves spending time with her family, working as an Assistant Teacher at Children’s Church for her church and assisting her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop.

Diane Morris

Diane Morris - Communications and Events Coordinator

Diane joined Disability Rights in 2016. She has a journalism degree and worked as a television news producer in Kansas City, Houston, and Raleigh before moving to the non-profit sector. She joined the NC Justice Center in 2005, where she served as Director of Communications and then Senior Editor. She also was a columnist for the Raleigh News & Observer, where she wrote about her life raising two boys with autism. Diane, her boys, and her husband of more than 20 years live in Cary.

Lisa Nesbitt

Lisa Nesbitt - Senior Attorney

Lisa joined Disability Rights NC in April 2012. She received a bachelor's degree from Cook College at Rutgers and a juris doctorate degree from George Washington University. Lisa practiced law with several private firms in Washington and New Jersey where she gained valuable advocacy and argumentation skills which have greatly helped in raising three teenagers.

Steve Noblitt

Steve Noblitt - Advocate

Steve worked with the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for 30 years, retiring as the Western Regional Director in 2005. He most recently has worked as a Disability Program Navigator with the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board. Steve enjoys traveling, particularly with a humanitarian purpose. He is Chairperson of the Board of Directors for Kory Wawanaca Childrens Home in Tacachia, Bolivia and is highly involved in a local program for the homeless in Asheville. He is married to Leigh, father of Josh and Geoff, father-in-law of Julie, grandfather of Lily Faye and Jack. Steve holds a master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Appalachian State University.

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Susan Pollitt - Senior Attorney

Raised in Chapel Hill, Susan attended Northeastern University School of Law (1984) and started her legal career with the Public Defender's office in Charlotte. She moved back to the Triangle area with her husband, Bill Rowe, in 1987 and worked for NCOSH and then N.C. Prisoner Legal Services (1989-2005). In 2005 she joined the staff of Carolina Legal Assistance (CLA). Since 2007, when Governor Easley designated CLA as our state's P&A, Susan has focused on making the promise of community integration a reality for people in North Carolina and protecting the rights of people with disabilities living in institutions.

Josh Prater

Josh Prater - Paralegal

Before joining Disability Rights NC, Josh worked as a lab tech, a teaching assistant for students with autism in Wake County Schools, and a paralegal at a small plaintiffs’ wage and hour firm.  Josh is a North Carolina native, a Raleigh transplant, and enjoys minor league baseball, reading, cooking, and canoeing.

 

Lisa Rabon

Lisa Rabon - Senior Attorney

Lisa received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1992 and her law degree from the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University in 1997. After graduation from law school, Lisa was in private practice in Raleigh and Wilson for several years. She joined Carolina Legal Assistance, now Disability Rights NC, in January 2003 as a staff attorney on the Special Education Juvenile Justice Project. Lisa represents clients involved in the juvenile justice system who have special education needs to ensure that their rights under state and federal law are protected.

Samantha Regner

Samantha Regner - Intake Specialist

Sam joined Disability Rights NC in June 2017, shortly after graduating from Campbell University with a bachelor's of business administration degree in marketing. She was born with mild cerebral palsy and, because of that, she has a passion for helping those affected by disabilities. Sam loves that her job as an intake specialist allows her to work with people with all types of disabilities.

John Rittelmeyer

John Rittelmeyer - Director of Special Litigation

Prior to joining Disability Rights NC, John was in private practice in Raleigh for more than 15 years, concentrating on consumer finance issues and disability insurance claims. For nearly ten years, John served on the Board of Directors for Carolina Legal Assistance, having been drawn to disability issues as the parent of a child with severe developmental disabilities. Outside of work, John can be found in his garden. He lives in Cary with his wife, Jennifer.

Cas Shearin

Cas Shearin - Director of Investigations and Monitoring

Cas joined Disability Rights NC as an advocate in August 2007. After reporting for newspapers in Georgia and North Carolina for eight years, Cas pursued a career in advocacy. For 15 years, she worked as an investigator, consultant, administrator and legislative liaison for a Durham nonprofit law firm that specializes in defending people facing the death penalty. She is particularly passionate about people whose humanity and dignity has been overlooked or discounted by others. She now directs Disability Rights NC's Investigations and Monitoring Unit which investigates serious allegations of abuse or neglect for people with disabilities.

Kathy Smith

Kathy Smith - Advocate

Kathy is an advocate in the western part of the state. Kathy has a combined total of more than 30 years working for North Carolina's P&A. She worked for the Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities for 23 years prior to joining Disability Rights NC in July 2007. She is currently an Investigator for the Investigations and Monitoring Unit.

Vicki Smith

Vicki Smith - Executive Director

Vicki has been Disability Rights NC's Executive Director since December 2007. Vicki has a long history of working in the disability rights community in part driven by her personal experience with disability. She started her career as an advocate when teaching special education in rural West Virginia. She later moved to Washington, DC where she served as Deputy Director of the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems (now National Disability Rights Network) for ten years. She primarily was responsible for managing their technical assistance to the Protection and Advocacy System nationally. Vicki believes that people with disabilities have the right to live in a safe and inclusive environment. Disability Rights NC helps make that possible.

Holly Stiles

Holly Stiles - Attorney

Holly is a native of Asheville. She received a degree in Ancient History from UNC-Chapel Hill, and then dabbled in being a New Yorker while completing her law degree at New York Law School. She works with clients who are facing barriers to full participation in community life. Holly is especially interested in the challenges faced by people who work with service animals and who are deaf and hard of hearing. Holly has worked with Disability Rights NC since 2009.

Kristine Sullivan

Kristine Sullivan - Senior Attorney

Kristine Sullivan has been with Disability Rights North Carolina in Raleigh since 2007 and currently serves as the attorney for the Investigations and Monitoring Unit.  Her work includes investigating allegations of abuse, neglect or suspicious deaths; monitoring the care and treatment provided at facilities throughout the state; and advocating for policy changes to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.  Kristine earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her JD from the University of North Carolina.  She is conversant in American Sign Language and is the author of a manual for attorneys and advocates who represent students in matters related to seclusion and restraint in schools.

Larkin Taylor-Parker

Larkin Taylor-Parker - Law Fellow

Larkin joined Disability Rights NC in August of 2017, shortly after graduating from the University of Georgia School of Law. Before and during law school, Larkin spent time as a grassroots organizer in Atlanta’s disability community and in various roles at nonprofits that advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Outside of work, Larkin enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing the tuba, and tinkering with an old Land Cruiser.

Debbie Thome

Debbie Thome - Advocate

Debbie splits her time between representing children whose unmet special education needs place them at risk of drop-out or involvement in the justice system and monitoring the rights and safety of individuals in both large state-operated facilities and smaller community residences. She came to Disability Rights NC via Carolina Legal Assistance, where she worked on the Special Education Juvenile Justice Project and, prior to that, on the Thomas S. class litigation. Debbie has a bachelor’s degree in Special Education from East Carolina University and has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 25 years, including six years as Executive Director of The Arc of Wake County.

Elaine Whitford

Elaine Whitford - Director of Development

Elaine joined Disability Rights NC in February 2010 as its first Director of Development. She practiced law for 16 years and, during that time, she served on many nonprofit boards of directors including Interact, the NC Center for Voter Education and the Auditory Learning Center. In 2006, Elaine turned her years of experience as a volunteer into a new career in nonprofit development and communications. When not working, you'll find Elaine waltzing around a ballroom dance floor as she keeps up her lifelong passion for dance. She received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Janice Willmott - Chief Administrative Officer

Janice has worked with Disability Rights NC since before the transition of Carolina Legal Assistance to Disability Rights NC in 2007. She has over 17 years with Disability Rights NC and many years prior to that working for private law firms. Janice is originally from Louisiana, but enjoys calling North Carolina home. She spends her free time with family and friends in the North Carolina mountains.

 

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