Kiara Banks – Investigator
Kiara joined Disability Rights NC in September 2018. Having previously worked in the mental health field and with persons with disabilities, she brings a passion for providing advocacy, guidance, and support to our clients. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Family and Community Services from East Carolina University where she focused on early intervention. Her work with DRNC focuses on investigations involving Social Security beneficiaries and their representative payees. Outside of work, Kiara enjoys creative writing, baking, and spending time with friends and family.
Charlie Barnes – Accounting Assistant
Charlie began working for Disability Rights NC when it became the state’s Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agency on July 1, 2007. Charlie has over 35 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 DRNC, serving at that time as our CFO until his “semi-retirement” into his current role as part-time accounting assistant. 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.
Karla Blackwell – Intake Specialist
Karla was born and raised in Raleigh, NC. She has several family members who have disabilities including hearing loss, 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 be a team member of DRNC. 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 – 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 DRNC, she interned with the Family Assistance Program at the Ronald McDonald House in Winston-Salem. In her prior work as DRNC’s Outreach Specialist, 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. When she is not working, you can most likely find Gabby spending time with her family and her rescue dog, Benny, volunteering, or attending events with her Alpha Delta Pi alumnae sisters.
Reighlah Collins – Attorney
Reighlah joined DRNC in August 2018 as an attorney on the Education Team. Reighlah grew up in Zebulon, NC and received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Asheville and her law degree from UNC School of Law. While attending UNC-A, she interned for the Asheville TEACCH Autism Program. Prior to law school, she worked as a direct supports coordinator in a group home for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Reighlah also has family members working the disability field and her brother has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. These experiences led her to pursue a career in disability law. Outside of work, Reighlah likes to read, bake cookies, make people look at pictures of her two cats, and spend time with her family.
Barbara Daniels – Investigator
Barbara joined DRNC in September 2018 as a Representative Payee Investigator. She has over 30 years’ experience in the social services arena at the local and state levels, and recently retired from the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Medical Assistance (DMA). At DMA, Barbara served as Operational Support Team Manager, responsible for managing a team that provides Medicaid policy training, consultative and technical support to 100 county social services agencies. Barbara holds a BS degree in Psychology from Fayetteville State University, an MBA with a concentration in Public Administration, and a Human Resources Graduate Certificate from Strayer University. No stranger to advocacy, Barbara has for many years advocated for the rights of her two sons, both of whom have a diagnosis of mental illness. Outside of work, Barbara enjoys spending time with her granddaughter and other family members, attending church, aerobic exercise (Zumba, Hip Hop Dance and anything else that gets the heart pumping) and traveling.
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.
Meisha Evans – Policy Analyst
Meisha joined Disability Rights NC in February 2018 after spending four years reviewing wrongful conviction claims for indigent North Carolina inmates. She received her bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and her juris doctor degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law.
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 and daughter Isabella.
Virginia Fogg – Supervising Attorney
Virginia joined DRNC 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.
Anna Gazmarian – Investigator
Anna joined DRNC in July 2018 as an investigator and advocate. Her previous work experience at NC Health News and Carolina Outreach helped her develop a passion for systemic mental health reform. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Hope College. Anna is pursuing her master’s degree in Creative Writing at Bennington College while working on her first book. Anna lives in Durham with her husband David and two dogs.
Enid Gonzalez – Office Manager
Enid joined DRNC’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 – Legal Director
Lisa joined Disability Rights NC in 2011, was promoted to Managing Attorney in 2014 and became Legal Director in 2018. Prior to joining DRNC, 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 Peoples Green – Supervising Attorney
Iris supervises the Intake Team Leader at DRNC in addition to leading litigation for children and our emergency management/disaster relief efforts. When she is not working, Iris continues to advocate for children in her community through volunteer work at Watts Missionary Baptist Church and Johnston UNC Health Foundation Board. Iris’s greatest work has been systemic litigation on behalf of children with complex behavioral health needs. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from South Carolina State University and her law degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law. Iris is married to Joe Green, and they have two children, Lt. Joseph Green III and Ilana Victoria Green.
Oliver Harwood – Investigator
Oliver joined Disability Rights NC’s Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Representative Payees program in September 2018. As an Investigator on the Rep Payee team, he conducts methodical, objective reviews of representative payees for the purpose of ensuring that Social Security beneficiaries are not abused, neglected, or exploited. Previous to DRNC, he was an advocate at the New York Legal Assistance Group in New York City and an ombudsman for long-term care residents in Portland, Oregon. Oliver is excited and grateful to help North Carolinians with disabilities and be part of the community.
Lucy Hatchell- 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.
Chris Hodgson – Attorney
Chris joined DRNC in August 2015. He earned his JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, MA from Texas A&M University, and BA from Southern Illinois University. Chris developed his passion for disability rights prior to law school through his work as a direct care aide, case manager, and day program coordinator.
Meredith Huml – Intake Specialist
Meredith joined Disability Rights NC on in May 2017. She previously worked as an Independent Living Specialist at Alliance of Disability Advocates in Raleigh. Meredith has FSHD, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, and is an active member in the FSH Society. She and her father wrote a book on MD, published in July 2015, and continue to publish papers on FSHD in the hopes of spreading awareness and one day finding a cure. She enjoys writing, snacking, petting people’s dogs, and spending time with her loved ones.
Emma Kinyanjui – Supervising 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, benefits, 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 NC 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 NC Central University School of Law.
Virginia Knowlton Marcus – Chief Executive Officer
Virginia Knowlton Marcus is a nationally recognized disability rights attorney who has been advocating for disability rights at the federal, state, local and international levels for 25 years. Her prior positions include Executive Director at Disability Rights Maryland, Director of Legal Advocacy and Director of Public Policy at Disability Rights California, and Executive Director at the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. Her relevant experience includes leadership positions on the National Disability Rights Network Board of Directors. Virginia earned her J.D. and B.A. at the University of California, Davis. She was thrilled to join the great team at Disability Rights NC in September 2018.
Nicholas Lett – Paralegal
Nick was born and raised in Sanford, NC, where his family owned and operated Lee Builder Mart for three generations. He received his Bachelor of Arts from UNC-Wilmington and a Diploma in Paralegal Technology from Central Carolina Community College. Prior to joining Disability Rights NC, Nick worked in his family’s business for eight years and then as a paralegal for a criminal and civil law firm in Lillington for two years. Family members of his have been affected by hearing impairment, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression and Myasthenia Gravis. He considers it a privilege to be a part of an organization that supports and advocates for people with disabilities.
Tadra Martin – Senior 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 DRNC, Tadra conducted unemployment appeals hearings as a legal specialist at the NC Division of Employment Security. Tadra’s work at DRNC is focused on protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities to live in the most integrated community setting.
Andrea Martinez – Advocate
Andrea was raised in Raleigh. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Child Development at Brigham Young University in Idaho. Afterwards, she moved to San Francisco in order to work with AmeriCorps in their partnership with Prevent Child Abuse California. In California, she worked with children with delays and disabilities as a teacher, coordinator, and developmental therapist. She continued that work after returning to North Carolina. Andrea is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Education from UNC- Wilmington. Her work with Disability Rights NC focuses on advocacy and investigation in matters involving the education system. Outside of work, Andrea likes to read, try the most delicious restaurants in the Triangle, and attend to her two dog’s every whim.
Susan McLean – Director of Development & Communications
Susan began her leadership role at Disability Rights NC in December 2018, bringing two decades’ experience in her field, most recently at UNC Law School Alumni Relations.
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 and running the Children’s Church program for her church.
Elizabeth Myerholtz – Disability Law Fellow
Elizabeth joined Disability Rights NC in August 2018. She was raised in Ohio where she graduated from Miami University with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and English literature. She worked as a direct support professional for adults with autism before moving to Washington, DC to attend law school at American University Washington College of Law. While in law school, Elizabeth worked at the San Diego Public Defender’s Office – Mental Health Unit, American University’s Disability Rights Law Clinic, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Outside of work, Elizabeth enjoys crocheting, restoring furniture, and exploring the Triangle with her two dogs.
Lisa Nesbitt – Senior Attorney
Lisa joined Disability Rights NC in April 2012. Her work involves helping children and adults obtain necessary medical services, including mental health and developmental disabilities services. She received her bachelor’s degree from Cook College at Rutgers University and her law degree from George Washington University. Lisa practiced law with several private firms in Washington and New Jersey before taking time off to raise three children.
Susan Pollitt – Supervising 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 NC Prisoner Legal Services (1989-2005). She joined the staff of Carolina Legal Assistance (CLA) in 2005. Since 2007, when Governor Easley designated CLA as the state’s P&A (which became Disability Rights NC), 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 – 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.
Valerie Reed – Receptionist
Valerie joined DRNC in November 2018. She graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with Bachelors and Masters degrees in Speech and Hearing Science. Valerie has over 25 years’ experience as a Speech Language Pathologist, working with and frequently advocating for both children and adults with various disabilities. She enjoys interacting with and assisting people with disabilities at DRNC. During her free time, Valerie enjoys live music performances, worshipping with her church and serving the physical and spiritual needs of the community as part of the hospitality ministry. She strives to be a positive role model of how to live with a disability, and is grateful for her family members who are very supportive of her.
John Rittelmeyer – Director of 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 – 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 DRNC’s Investigations and Monitoring Unit which investigates serious allegations of abuse or neglect for people with disabilities.
Angel Smith – Investigator
Angel Smith recently joined Disability Rights NC as an investigator with the Representative Payee Team. She has over 15 years’ experience assisting people with disabilities in education and mental health, in addition to personal and family experience with disabilities. Angel enjoys spending time with family and friends, painting portraits and sets for theatre productions, making jewelry, watching a good movie and singing karaoke. Angel is excited for this opportunity to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
Kathy Smith – Investigator
Kathy is an Investigator with DRNC’s Investigations and Monitoring Unit who covers the western part of the state. She has worked for the North Carolina protection and advocacy organization for more than 30 years, beginning with 23 years at the Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities prior to joining DRNC in July 2007.
Brad Spivey – Chief Financial Officer
Brad joined Disability Rights NC in January 2018. As Chief Financial Officer, he oversees accounting and financial management functions for the agency. Brad has many years of experience in nonprofit accounting and is a North Carolina State University alumnus. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time watching soccer or volleyball with his kids. Brad also enjoys golf, fishing, working in his yard and traveling with his wife, Pam.
Kristine Sullivan – Supervising Attorney
Kristine Sullivan has been with Disability Rights NC since 2007. She serves as the supervising 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 law degree 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 – Attorney
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 – Advocate
Debbie splits her time between representing children to resolve special education and discipline-related issues in schools and monitoring the rights and safety of children and adults with disabilities in facilities throughout the state. She came to Disability Rights NC in 2007 via Carolina Legal Assistance, where she first worked on the Thomas S. class litigation and then on the Special Education Juvenile Justice Project. Debbie earned her bachelor’s degree in Special Education from East Carolina University. She has worked with people with disabilities and their families in the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years and has both lifelong friends and family members with disabilities. Outside of work, she enjoys walking, reading, attending live music events, camping and going to the beach with her two teenagers as often as possible.
Jaime Viola – Receptionist
Jaime joined Disability Rights NC in November 2018. She works on the Intake Team and enjoys assisting people with disabilities. Jaime grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Raleigh. She enjoys visiting the beach and the mountains in her free time.
Janice Willmott – Chief Administrative Officer
Janice worked with the North Carolina protection and advocacy organization before our transition from Carolina Legal Assistance to Disability Rights NC in 2007. She appreciates working for an organization with a rich history of advocating for people with disabilities. Janice also has many years prior experience working for private law firms. She is originally from Louisiana, but enjoys calling North Carolina home. When not at work, she enjoys spending time with family and friends in the North Carolina mountains.