Worker sues NY over disabled care, retaliation

ALBANY – Officials ignored complaints workers were abusing residents of state-owned homes for the disabled in New York, then retaliated against an employee who went public with his claims, according to federal whistleblower suit.

Jeffrey Monsour, a 14-year employee of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, seeks unspecified damages, claiming violations of his rights to free speech and equal protection under the law, breach of contract and defamation.

Monsour, who works in the Albany area, filed suit Monday against the agency. He says he was ostracized by other staff and falsely accused of abuse after he complained of mistreatment of residents, including improper “takedowns” of unruly residents, and mismanagement that included letting a pedophile attend a children’s Halloween party at an amusement park.

“The persecution of him has been going on since he first raised issues,” attorney Robert Sadowski said, long before he was quoted in 2011 New York Times stories about problems in the state system. “Nothing has changed other than the persecution of him has become ever more intense.”

OPWDD and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office declined to comment Tuesday.

The federal suit, filed in Albany, said the false abuse allegation against Monsour stemmed from an argument he had with a co-worker, allegedly upsetting one of the residents. It alleges that the mistreatment of whistleblowers is an entrenched practice. “The failure to train, supervise or punish supervisory and other employees who retaliate against whistleblowers resulted in OPWDD encouraging such abuses,” it said.

The agency, responsible for care and services for 126,000 disabled New Yorkers, reported two weeks ago that abuse allegations declined last year by 22 percent in state-run facilities and by 9.5 percent at others operated by its nonprofit contractors, citing cited reforms over the past two years, including better incident reporting and investigations.

OPWDD said it recorded 10,572 abuse allegations in 2012, down from 12,169 the year before.