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Staff

Brian Adae, Esquire
Senior Attorney

Brian received his Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law, commencing the private practice of law in Washington State. Previously, following his undergraduate studies in liberal arts, he worked for the Rhode Island Department of Natural Resources.  Returning to New England, Brian was a trial lawyer in Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the State and Commonwealth Superior, District, Family and Probate Courts, as well as Federal District Court and federal First Circuit Court of Appeals.  He had also worked with a public affairs group representing corporate interests with Rhode Island’s elected representatives in the U.S. Congress and Senate and before the state legislature.

Brian is a member and former Chair of the Lawyers Helping Lawyers (Confidential Assistance) Committee of the RI Bar Association, as well as a member of the Public Service Involvement Committee and the Ethics & Professionalism Committee.  He serves as Vice-President of the Board of Directors for the Ocean State Bike Path Association and is a former board member of Rhode Island Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependence.  Brian is also a PSIA/AASI professionally certified Ski Instructor and Adaptive Snowboard Instructor volunteering with Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation as an advisor, clinician and trainer.

Brian’s life-long, deep passion for public service working with persons in need – particularly people with disabilities – led to his employment as an attorney with the Disability Rights Rhode Island more than fifteen years ago where he remains today.

Kate Bowden, Esquire
Attorney

Kate Bowden has been an attorney with Disability Rights Rhode Island since 2004.  Previously she was an associate at the law firm of Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, LLP in Boston where she represented cities and towns.  She served as law clerk and senior law clerk to the Massachusetts Superior Court and served as law clerk to the Superior Court Justices of Rhode Island. At DRRI, Kate has successfully represented clients on a variety of legal issues including Americans with Disabilities Act litigation in federal court, eligibility assessments before the Division of Developmental Disabilities, contested civil commitment, housing discrimination, guardianship proceedings, and administrative actions before the State Board of Elections regarding accessible voting equipment and voting rights.

Kate is the lead attorney for DRRI’s voting rights grant for which she spearheads systemic advocacy, outreach and training activities to ensure full participation in the electoral process for people with disabilities. Kate is passionate about assisting people with disabilities to know and exercise their voting rights. In her career, she has presented to municipal officials and election officials, disability advocates, and persons with disabilities and their family members on diverse topics including: guardianship and alternatives to guardianship, voting rights and procedures, legislative advocacy, employment discrimination and public records/open meeting statutes.

David Boyer
Legal Director

Dave Boyer is the Legal Director here at DR RI. His experience in the protection and advocacy network began in Florida where he was the Director of Investigations. Most recently he was a Managing Attorney at the National Disability Rights Network and he has experience in both in training and litigation on a number of topics to include criminal justice, community integration, housing, and P&A access and standing.

This is Dave’s second career as he was a psychologist for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, part of a 33 year career in the Army. He obtained his B.A. in psychology from THE Ohio State University, his M.A. (A.B.D) in clinical psychology from Ohio University, and his J.D. from Florida State University. Dave’s salary primarily is devoted to vet bills and hiking/backpacking gear purchases.

 

Bruce Conklin
Director of Operations

Bruce is transplant to Rhode Island from New York but has lived in various locations throughout the United States. Through his experience working with local, county and state government as well as many non-profits, he looks to bring his experience to support the DRRI team in meeting their goals.

Bruce holds a Bachelor’s degree from Johnson & Wales University in International Business. As the Director of Operations, he is looking forward to using his expertise in administration and organizational development to help drive organizational goals and aid in DRRI’s mission of assisting their clients to achieve full inclusion in society.

 

Mark C. Hadden, Esquire
Attorney

Mark C. Hadden has been a litigator since 1984, handling trials and appeals before the Superior and Supreme Courts of Rhode Island, as well as the United States District Court and the U. S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. His case experience has included medical malpractice, land use planning and zoning, municipal law, complex products liability, commercial and business litigation, toxic tort, wrongful death, insurance coverage and personal injury litigation for both plaintiffs and defendants.

Mark’s municipal law experience includes representation of the Towns of North Smithfield, Lincoln, and Exeter, including six years as counsel to the Exeter Planning Board; and, as special legal consultant, the towns of North Kingstown, South Kingston, Bristol, East Greenwich, West Greenwich, Tiverton, and Barrington. He was Town Solicitor for the Town of North Smithfield, R.I. for four years from 2005 to 2008.

Mark is a Rhode Island native and a graduate of Pilgrim H.S., Warwick, R.I.,1975, and thereafter graduated magna cum laude from Duke University in 1979 with a B.A. in philosophy and political science. He received his J.D., cum laude, from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans in 1984, where he was a member of the Moot Court Board.

Most recently, Mark is honored to have joined DRRI as staff counsel in 2020 to advocate for and defend the disability rights of those who are DRRI’s heartfelt mission.

Mark’s erstwhile avocation is playing his soprano, alto and tenor saxophones.

Elisabeth HubbardElisabeth Hubbard, Esquire
Attorney

Elisabeth Hubbard has been a Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Rhode Island since 2004.  Ms. Hubbard obtained her B.S. degree from Smith College and her J.D. degree from Brooklyn Law School where she was a recipient of the Sparer Public Interest Fellowship and participated in Brooklyn Law School’s Federal Litigation Clinic.

Elisabeth practices diverse areas of law at Disability Rights Rhode Island including special education, housing discrimination, employment rights and access to public accommodations.  Her systemic work is concentrated on assistive technology but she also works on the Voting Rights and Vocation Rehabilitation grants.

Elisabeth also serves as a member of the Rhode Island Council on Assistive Technology, an advisory group to the state’s AT Project that helps inform the public about assistive technology and their rights regarding assistive technology.  Recently the Council advised Ms. Hubbard on the development of an Assistive Technology Lemon Law Kit, now published by DRRI.

Jacqueline S. JohnsonJacqueline S. Johnson
Intake Specialist

Jacquie is a native New Yorker who relocated to Rhode Island with her son in tow, to start a new chapter in their lives.

She applied and landed the position of Administrative Assistant at Rhode Island Disability Law Center in March 2002. Jacquie set out to not only land a job but to also complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and Media in June 2010. Jacquie was promoted to Intake Specialist March of 2021.

Jacquie has many outside interests such as; self-development reading, Walking and Fitness videos.

She looks forward to the future and her work at Disability Rights Rhode Island.

Crystal Martin
Intake Advocate

Crystal Martin arrived at the Disability Right’s Rhode Island organization with a wealth of experience in hospitality from The University Club. Crystal’s love for creative endeavors inspired her return to school as an adult learner at the Community College of Rhode Island. While in the Fine Arts program, the general education requirements sparked a passion for psychology, philosophy, as well as history. Upon transferring to Rhode Island College’s School of Social Work, she continued her journey to find her true calling. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree, and still feeling the drive to learn new skills, Crystal attended the Human Resource Management Program at Johnson and Wales University, where she received a Master’s degree.

As an Intake Advocate for the Disability Right’s Rhode Island organization, she is the agency’s primary screening resource for potential clients by responding to requests for services through phone calls, emails, and in-office appointments. Crystal also provides information for referrals to those whose requests do not fall in the Disability Right’s Rhode Island Focus Areas. In addition, she also responds to requests for publications, trainings, or outreach activities by preparing data to present to management for disposition.

Wendy McHugh
Chief Financial Officer

Wendy joined our team in January 2020 to assist us in executing our day to day finance activities.  She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations and comes to us most recently from Brown University where she spent 11+ years in roles of increasing levels of finance responsibility.  Her last role at Brown was as Senior Director of Finance and Data Initiatives in which she delivered all the accounting, finance and data needs of Brown University’s Division of Biology and Medicine.

Wendy holds a Certificate in Public Accounting (CPA) and has earned an MBA in Finance from Bryant University.

Morna A. Murray, J.D.
Executive Director

Morna is the Executive Director of Disability Rights Rhode Island.  She has more than 25 years of experience working in public policy and advocacy in the private sector, state government, and on Capitol Hill.  Prior to DRRI, Morna served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services, and a member of Governor Dan Malloy’s cabinet. In that position, she oversaw state services for children and adults with disabilities throughout Connecticut.  Prior to that, she was President and CEO of the Connecticut Community Providers Association, advocating and lobbying for disabilities and behavioral health non-profit providers at the state level.

Morna served as Senior Counsel to U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and lead staff on all healthcare and children’s issues, including the development and passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Morna previously served as Director of Youth Development for the Children’s Defense Fund, Washington, D.C., where she advocated for legislation and programs serving the needs of low-income children and families.

Morna currently serves as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Autism Transitions Research Project (ATRP), a research program funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, AJ Drexel Autism Institute’s Life Course Outcomes Research Program.

A graduate of the George Washington University Law School, Morna is a member of the Connecticut, District of Columbia, and Florida Bars. She has two adult children and two grandchildren.

Jeanne Natale
Director of Investigations

Jeanne Natale is a graduate of the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy, class of 2010. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from New England Institute of Technology, and brings ten years of investigative experience. As a Detective with the Brown University Department of Public Safety, Jeanne investigated criminal and civil complaints. She was responsible for implementing and overseeing the special victims unit and worked closely with survivors of interpersonal violence. As a mentor, Jeanne provided high school students with a positive law enforcement experience and training on basic crime scene investigations.

Passionate about advocating for victims, Jeanne held an eight year volunteer position on the board of directors for Sojourner House. Currently, she is an active member of the Rhode Island Criminalist Association and newest member of the team at DDRI.

Raymond Pingitore
Investigator

Ray was a veteran Detective with the Johnston Police Department, retiring with 23 years of service. He was the Lead Investigator in the case of United States vs Gregory Floyd et al, a heinous crime of carjacking/double murder which resulted in the conviction of five individuals. Ray is also a published author of the book Thrill Killers. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Workforce Board of Greater Rhode Island by both Governor Chafee and Raimondo. This Board served the needs of the unemployed and under employed population. Ray has also been a criminal justice Adjunct Professor at New England Institute of Technology, as well as worked for a community action program in the capacity as a Victim of Crime Advocate. Ray received his Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University.

Catherine Sansonetti, Esquire
Managing Attorney

Catherine is a Supervising Attorney who has been with Disability Rights Rhode Island since 2002. She represents clients on a variety of issues and within all areas of DRRI’s services. Currently, Catherine supervises Intake Operations related to requests for DRRI assistance and information and referral services.

In addition to representation of clients and managing the intake department, Catherine has a particular focus on the Client Assistance Program (CAP) which assists clients with multiple vocational rehabilitation and employment issues. In that role, she also serves a leadership role as the Vice-Chair of the State Rehabilitation Council, a citizen advisory board appointed by the Governor and mandated by the federal Rehabilitation Act. She is also the Chair of the Policy Committee for the State Rehabilitation Council.

Catherine is admitted to practice in the State and federal courts of RI and is also admitted in Massachusetts.

Melissa VanesseMelissa Vanasse
Investigator

Melissa joined Disability Rights RI in September 2020. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Connecticut State University in Communication/Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree from Albertus Magnus College in Public Administration. Melissa began her work in the human services field 19 years ago.

Before coming to DRRI, Melissa worked for 15 years in Connecticut at STAR Inc., Lighting the Way, a nonprofit agency assisting adults with developmental disabilities. Melissa worked as an Employment Manager for the first eight years, assisting her clients with finding meaningful work in their communities, and as Quality Assurance Coordinator for the last seven years. As Quality Assurance Coordinator, Melissa was part of the Abuse and Neglect Investigation team.

Melissa has spent her entire career working in the nonprofit sector, is a strong advocate for people with disabilities and has a passion for wanting to help.