There's some controversy at the state Capitol over a disability roundtable hosted by state Senator Roy McDonald. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- A roundtable discussion on abuses within the state's mental health system garnered scrutiny on Monday after a whistleblower employee critical of the state's handling of cases was initially uninvited at the request of the Cuomo administration. After The New York Times inquired, the employee was invited back. The incident comes as officials at the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities says it's trying to encourage workers to come forward and report abuse.
OPWDD Development Aide Jeffrey Monsour said, "I was a little surprised because I know OPWDD has a policy to where the commissioner has a new agenda and she wants people to speak out, and I was little shocked they were worried about me being at the meeting."
Jeffrey Monsour said he was invited last week to the roundtable discussion led by Republican Senator Roy McDonald. On Friday, he received a call from McDonald's office saying that OPWDD Commissioner Courtney Burke was uncomfortable with him there. By Sunday night, he was invited back.
Senator McDonald said, "The commissioner evidently communicated with various people on the second floor and throughout, but that was rectified this morning."
Advocates charge that cases of physical and mental abuse of the disabled by staff or other clients frequently go unreported or uninvestigated by law enforcement. OPWDD Commissioner Courtney Burke called the handling a miscommunication.
She said, "I think it was just a simple misunderstanding."
"Between?" asked the reporter.
Burke replied, "I have no idea."
Burke herself did not stay long at the event, which lasted more than two hours. She gave brief introductory remarks and then left.
"I'm hoping that the dialogue that happens in the room today is a productive dialogue," she said. "We want to hear people's real suggestions. I think, yes, it's important people continue to criticize as well because that makes us do our job and become better."
Whistleblowers, including Monsour, have been punished by prior administrations for stepping forward to report abuse cases within the state's mental health system.