Leadership Team

Leadership Team

Portrait of Andrew J. Imparato

Andrew J. Imparato

Executive Director

Andy Imparato became the Executive Director of DRC on February 3, 2020. Andy joins DRC after a high impact 26-year career in Washington, DC working inside and outside government in significant leadership positions, including 17 years as the chief executive of two national disability organizations, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

Andy’s experience also includes serving as Senior Counsel and Disability Policy Director for Chairman Tom Harkin on the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; General Counsel and Director of Policy for the National Council on Disability; and as an attorney at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School in 1990 and was a summa cum laude graduate of Yale College. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, is married to historian Elizabeth M. Nix, Ph.D., and has two sons, Gareth and Nicholas, who both live in Southern California. Andy’s perspective is informed by his lived experience with bipolar disorder.

Andy is committed to “championing and modeling diversity, equity and inclusion and defining a future for disability rights advocacy that extends the reach and impact of the disability rights movement in California, the United States and globally.”

Portrait of Christian Abasto

Christian Abasto

Director of the Legal Advocacy Unit (LAU)

Christian Abasto has been zealously advocating for the poor and persons with disabilities for over 21 years. Christian is the Legal Advocacy Unit Director of Disability Rights California (DRC). The Legal Advocacy Unit (LAU) is DRC’s core Protection & Advocacy legal program, tasked with fulfilling our federal mandate to defend the rights of people with disabilities in California. We have approximately 58 attorneys and 66 advocates and support staff in six offices throughout California: Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, Ontario and San Diego.

Before joining DRC, Christian was the Director of Litigation at the Public Law Center where he supervised complex litigation and policy advocacy matters. Christian was also the Managing Attorney of the Housing and Eviction Defense Units at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. He handled appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the California Court of Appeal, and the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Christian was lead counsel in the 9th Circuit published decision, Barrientos v. 1801-1825 Morton LLC, 583 F.3d 1197 (2009). The decision established positive precedent regarding federal preemption, Section 8 vouchers, and local rent control laws. Christian received a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego and his J.D. from the University of California, Davis in 1997.


Rosa Alas

Legal Operations Manager

Rosa Alas is the Legal Operations Manager developing efficient and progressive office management to ensure a competent and united support team for the legal advocacy staff.

Rosa began her DRC career in 1985, working tirelessly on the "Baby Lopez" litigation case, which ultimately allowed a mother to keep her infant with disabilities at home for the final few years of his life. At the time, as a new mother herself, Rosa felt the anguish and determination the mother felt—igniting Rosa's passion for protection and advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities. She has since helped form the first agency-wide diversity committee to shape DRC’s work with underserved and diverse communities.

Rosa’s goal is to build a legal support team with members who reach their highest potential, who feel they are valued, and who make a positive difference in our clients’ lives. Rosa has an Associate’s degree inBusiness Administration with an emphasis in Computer Science and a Paralegal Certificate.


Koleen Biegacki

Manager of Executive and Board Operations

Koleen Biegacki is the Manager of Executive and Board Operations. Koleen has worked with boards and non-profits for nearly 20 years. In her career and at DRC, Koleen has worked with individuals from a variety of ethnic communities. Her philosophy is a servant-leadership management style, whereby to empower team members and provide the tools that will enable them to grow as a person, become more knowledgeable and skilled, and increase autonomy.

As the parent of a child with various neurodevelopmental disabilities, Koleen has 28 years of experience working with people with disabilities. This has been a tremendous benefit to her work with board members, many of whom have disabilities or are family members of individuals with disabilities.

“I enjoy working at DRC because we have a direct impact on people with disabilities and/or their families by representing clients, providing training, or advocating through legislation. Also, I love the people I work beside. They are practically my family.”

Portrait of Candis Bowles

Candis Bowles

Senior Managing Attorney

Ms. Bowles is Sr. Managing Attorney who works with DRC’s Leadership Team to shape agency-wide policies and practices and helps steer the Legal Advocacy Unit.

Since Ms. Bowles joined DRC in 2008, she has participated in a variety of advocacy efforts that have improved the lives of children. Her notable cases include Sam Doe et al v. Pasadena Unified School District, a case in which plaintiffs sought to end segregation of students with behavior related disabilities. She was also counsel in A.C. v. Schwarzenegger, a case against the State of California, local and state defendants for failing to provide educationally-related mental health services to students. Ms. Bowles and her practice group also represent youth in a number of systemic advocacy matters aimed at reforming juvenile facilities, court schools, county offices of education and local education agencies that fail to provide integrated mental health, behavioral and trauma-informed services for youth involved in the juvenile justice and dependency systems. Ms. Bowles also works on policy and advocacy to end bullying, restraint and seclusion and segregation of students with disability related behaviors.

Ms. Bowles is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley where she majored in East Asian Languages – Japanese Studies. She attended law school at the University of Southern California.

Terry Dickinson

Terry Dickinson

Operations Manager

Terry Dickinson joined DRC as the Operations Manager in April of 2019. He has more than 20 years of experience in Building and Operational Management. He is responsible for property, equipment and lease management, service contracts, insurance, maintenance and capital expenditure budgets, inspection and safety of facilities and improves systems, policies, procedures and organizational planning.

Prior to joining DRC, he was the Facility Director for almost 3 years at a Retirement Facility that offered several levels of care for the aging including; skilled nursing, memory care and personal care.

He worked 29 years with the California Department of Corrections, the last 6 of those years as an Associate Warden of Business Services over 13 Community Correctional Facilities and several Out-of-State Facilities housing lower level inmates. He has a degree in General Science.

Portrait of Steve Haas

Steve Haas

Human Resources Director

Steve Haas joined DRC as the Human Resource Director in January 2015. He has over 20 years experience from a variety of human resources, training and management roles. Steve has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Master’s Degree in Human Resources. Both degrees are from Golden Gate University.

He is certified by the HR Certification Institute as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, with an additional certification in California employment law (SPHR-CA). He serves on the faculty of UC Davis Extension, teaching a variety of HR courses. Steve was on the board of directors for the Sacramento Area HR Association for eight years.

Portrait of Katie Hornberger

Katie Hornberger

Director of Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy

Katie Hornberger is the Director of the Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy. She has been with OCRA for more than fifteen years. She worked as a supervisor and as the Clients’ Rights Advocate for clients of both Harbor Regional Center and North Los Angeles County Regional Center.

She represented clients in a variety of matters including public benefits, education, regional center, and discrimination cases. Katie has trained the community and served on many committees.

Prior to practicing law, she was a special education and early intervention teacher. She also was an in-home behavior therapist for children with Autism. Katie received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Irvine and earned her J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law.

Portrait of Karen Keene

Karen Keene

Finance Director

Karen Keene joined DRC as Finance Director in April 2016. She has more than 30 years of experience in accounting, finance, and administration in both corporate and non-profit organizations. Karen is responsible for all accounting functions at DRC.

Prior to joining DRC, Karen was the Chief Financial Officer for Volunteers of America, Utah. It addresses homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence. Karen has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from The College of Idaho. She has a Master’s Degree in Non Profit Management from Regis University. Her passion is nonprofit work.

Jesse Magano

Jesse Magano

Information Technology Director

Jesse Magano is DRC’s Information Technology Director. Jesse leads DRC’s creative and diverse IT team. He is responsible for technology planning, governance and policy, resource allocation and security.

Jesse has worked in the IT field for over 24 years. He has a Degree in Information Technology and Computer Systems Engineering. He holds certifications for Microsoft servers, applications and development platforms.

Before DRC, Jesse spent 8 years in IT roles in web development, network design and consulting. He worked for the State of California’s Health and Human Services Data Center.

Michele Mudgett

Michele Mudgett

Director of the California Office of Patients’ Rights (COPR)

Michele Mudgett is the Director of the California Office of Patients’ Rights Advocacy. She is responsible for the five state hospital advocacy programs. She gives statewide mental health trainings for Patients’ Rights Advocates.

The training is about advocacy basics and new laws. She oversees county advocacy program reviews.

Michele has 28 years of experience in the mental health field as both an advocate and a provider. She has been on regulatory, legislation, and policy committees. Michele give training on changes in the law and how to apply them.

She is experienced with people who live in forensic facilities. She also knows about the history of the Departments of Mental Health and State Hospitals and about changes in mental health services and philosophy.


Melody Pomraning

Communications Director

Melody Pomraning is the Communications Director leading DRC’s communications team and developing communication strategies for public engagement and brand awareness. She oversees external messaging and creative for the website, social media, press releases, videos, reports, publications/self-advocacy resources, outreach events, public policy, advocacy, and cases while managing all media relations.

She is a visionary leader with 14+ years’ developing integrated marketing communications and brand strategies for both profit and non-profit organizations, specializing in creative messaging and storytelling.

She has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Sacramento State University, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Management and Leadership, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing from the University of Saint Mary.