Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg sues AHRC Nassau over alleged abuse

An undated photo provided by Harvey Weisenberg shows An undated photo provided by Harvey Weisenberg shows New York Assemblyman Weisenberg and his wife Ellen with their son Ricky at an outing on Long Island. Weisenberg filed a federal lawsuit Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 alleging that his disabled son was hit and verbally abused at the Long Island group home where he resides. Photo Credit: AP

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Long Beach Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg and his wife, Ellen, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against a Nassau agency serving the developmentally disabled, alleging their son was physically and psychologically abused at its Plainview living facility.

"The thought of someone hurting him is almost unspeakably painful to us," said Weisenberg, of his son Ricky, 54. "We will continue to speak out on his behalf."

Harvey Weisenberg is among the legislature's leading advocates for the disabled.

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Brooklyn against the Brookville-based agency and Dwayne Edwards of West Hempstead. It alleges that Edwards, an employee working at the Plainview site at the time, verbally abused and hit Ricky Weisenberg, a resident, in the presence of others three years ago.

Ricky Weisenberg, 54, is mentally disabled, has cerebral palsy and can't speak. He still lives at the facility, his father said. The suit asks for unspecified damages.

AHRC Nassau assists the developmentally disabled with housing and other services.

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Weisenberg said he found out about the abuse charge when he was contacted by AHRC Nassau officials in 2009. Officials were abiding by legislation authored by the assemblyman in 2007 that mandates guardian notification of alleged abuse.

He filed the lawsuit three years afterward because "we thought the authorities we went to would do something, but they didn't." They filed the lawsuit on the advice of their lawyers, Harvey Weisenberg said.

AHRC Nassau issued a statement Monday expressing dismay at the Weisenbergs' lawsuit. "We are disappointed that our longtime friend would choose to name us in a lawsuit of this nature," the statement said.

The abuse allegation was reported to AHRC Nassau on April 9, 2009, according to the statement and "the employee was immediately relieved of his duties. An investigation was opened by an independent, internal unit of AHRC Nassau and all parties were notified that day."

The investigation concluded the same day and AHRC Nassau fired the employee a day later, according to the statement. The employee was not identified in the statement.

The lawsuit states that Edwards works at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County in Roosevelt. He was not available for comment. Officials at the Roosevelt agency did not return phone calls.

The Weisenbergs' lawyer, Ilann M. Maazel, said this case shows that "if it can happen to the son of a New York assemblyman . . . it can happen to anyone."

With James T. Madore

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