Board of Directors
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Bill Conine, President 

Bill is a Navy veteran and a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in communications.  He retired in 2015 after 40 years in the insurance industry, including assignments in marketing/agency communications followed by division-leading responsibilities in information technology, operations, human resources, facilities and enterprise project sponsorship. Bill has led and served on several other volunteer boards.


Donna Ramlow, President Elect 

Donna began her career at the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) in 1991, held various positions and has been the Executive Director since 2015. During this time she was involved in the development and implementation of the majority of new programs and contracts. Donna has been a certified Mediator since 1994. Prior to the DRC, Donna was a Federal Employee at West Point Military Academy for 22 years.

She is currently is a member of: Advisory Board of Office of the Aging, Advisory Board of Relatives as Parents Program(RAAP), Advisory Board of Family Court Child Care Center, Member of Court Improvement Project, Member of National Association of Professional Women, Board Member of NYSDRA since 2018. She is a former member of the New York State CASA Board where she served from 2013 to 2015.


L.J. Freitag, Vice President

A graduate of Syracuse University with a dual degree in Psychology and Communication, L.J. began his interest in mediation while working towards his master’s degree in labor and industrial relations at Cornell University. He spent over 20 years as Manager of Human Resources for companies including Chrysler Corporation, the Dial Corporation, Nabisco Brands, and the Rich Products Corporation where he negotiated labor agreements and mediated employee disputes. As an active member of NYSDRA for approximately 12 years, he currently mediates divorce, custody and visitation, special education, agricultural, landlord/tenant and community disputes in several counties. LJ also serves as a mediator for the Juvenile Restorative Justice program, Department of Justice, and as a panel representative for the NYS Surrogate Decision Making program. In addition, he is an arbitrator for the New York State Lemon Law program, member of the Arbitration Panel for the Erie County Bar Association, and is a member of the Corning Inc. Labor Grievance Arbitration panel. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation (NYSCDM) and is a member of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM).


Michele Kirschbaum, Secretary

Michele is the Director of Programs at New York Peace Institute, which serves Brooklyn and Manhattan residents. She currently oversees all direct service programs including community, court-based projects (criminal, family, civil and small claims courts) and specialized areas (custody, visitation child support, Special Education mediation, conflict coaching and restorative justice work in schools). Michele is trained in all of the specialized programs and restorative justice processes, and continues to be an active practitioner.  She currently serves as co-chair of the ADR and Restorative Justice Subcommittee, Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association.

Michele was formerly the Director of the Safe Horizon Brooklyn Mediation Center and was recognized for her leadership by receiving the Bertrum Beck Achievement Award, The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Extraordinary Woman Award and the Lawrence Cooke Peace Innovator Award for her work in Special Education Mediation. She is a graduate of Boston University School of Education. 


Amber Kane, Treasurer

Amber Kane is an administrator at the Center for Resolution and Justice of Child and Family Services as part of the mediation program staff, a position she has held since 2011. She has been active in special education for 15 years as both a parent and a consultant. In 2004, she founded the Autism Connection, serving both families and professionals.

Board Members 

Mark Collins

Mark was the Assistant State ADR Coordinator for the NYS Unified Court System, Office of ADR from 1979 until his retirement in 2016.  His career was dedicated to the establishment and growth of the statewide network of community dispute resolution centers, who currently provide free and low cost services to any resident in the state. He has served as an advisor and consultant to colleagues in many other states as they designed similar programs and networks.


Donna Durbin

Donna is the Director of Monroe County Programs at Center for Dispute Settlement in Rochester. She has worked with the Center for Dispute Settlement since 1993 and has been a certified mediator with the center since 1980. She implemented one of the first Custody & Visitation (C/V) Mediation Programs in the state and is a certified C/V trainer as well. Donna received her Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Keuka College in 2011. Her insight into the workings of a CDRC make her a perfect fit for the NYSDRA Board of Directors.


Leslie Funk 

Leslie Funk has a background in alternative dispute resolution, in both programming as well as hands-on mediation of community conflicts. Most recently, Leslie was the Manager of Mediation Programming at Community Mediation Services in Queens, and, prior to that, mediated small claims court conflicts in her home state of Massachusetts. She is a member of the board of directors for the Association for Conflict Resolution, Greater New York Chapter (ACR GNY). During the past few years, Leslie has been active in multiple peacebuilding organizations, including working with Northern Irish youth through Friends Forever International and developing case studies on the international use of video as evidence for Witness, Inc. Leslie earned a JD from Hamline University School of Law as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Communications from the University of Connecticut. Throughout it all, Leslie has remained an avid traveler and portraiture artist.


Simon Kyriakides

Simon is Senior Counsel at American Arbitration Association where he manages the legal and regulatory issues arising out of the AAA's insurance and ADR programs, oversees general compliance and regulatory issues impacting the AAA, defends the AAA in employment matters and ensures compliance with federal and state employment laws, oversees compliance with HIPAA and other privacy laws, drafts and reviews contracts (including IP and large events), leases, and responses to RFP's, retains and manages outside counsel in the defense of litigation against the AAA. Simon earned his JD from Syracuse University in 1994 and has served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Corporate Counsel, Greater New York Chapter.


Sarah Rudgers-Tysz, Immediate Past President

Sarah Rudgers-Tysz is licensed to practice law in Maryland and has been a mediator since 1996. She is the Executive Director of Mediation Matters, a non-profit agency offering conflict resolution services in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington Counties.  Sarah’s professional experience in conflict resolution includes: community, workplace, elder, youth, family, and criminal justice mediations; large group facilitation and team building; training for both educational seminars and undergraduate classes; and program design and implementation.


Dawn Wallant 

Dawn Wallant has over 29 years working with the NYS Community Dispute Resolution Centers Programs, first as the Program Coordinator and then Program Director for Community Dispute Settlement of Troy Area United Ministries, and since 2001, the Executive Director of Common Ground Dispute Resolution.

Ron Vero - President-Elect

Ron has over 18 years of experience in mediation and arbitration. He obtained his certificate in conflict studies from Cornell University and is currently business advocate of economic development for the New York State Department of Public Service.