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Ronald Richter named new ASC commissioner

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 8/5/2011, 1:29 p.m.

The city announced last week that Queens Family Court judge Ronald Richter is replacing John Mattingly in September as commissioner for the Administration for Children's Services (ACS). Mattingly resigned from the position after seven years on the job.

At a press conference at City Hall, Richter said that he wants to use his experience as a family court judge to help protect children, and wants to have the court system and ACS work together. Richter was the city's family services coordinator and a top deputy to Mattingly.

"I plan to enhance the agency's use of data to inform safety decisions on the front lines of child protection, and leverage my experience as a family court judge so that ACS, the family court and other city agencies are working optimally to ensure safety and permanency for children and youth," Richter said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg mentioned that Richter had been hired to work for ACS six years ago by Mattingly. He said that together they have created a more effective agency.

"Whenever someone leaves our administration it's our goal to find someone who can do the job even better," said Bloomberg. "Given Ron Richter's extensive experience and abilities, we are highly confident we have found that person. Now, Ron will build on that progress and help us do even more to protect our city's most vulnerable children."

Richter's appointment came just one day after Mattingly resigned as ASC commissioner. Reports indicate he has plans to move with his family to Baltimore, where he will work with the Annie C. Casey Foundation to help disadvantaged children.

Bloomberg praised Mattingly's tenure as commissioner of ASC and said he wishes him well during his transition.

He said, "Few people have worked harder and more effectively in such difficult circumstances than he has. Under John's leadership, ACS has adapted many essential reforms that have helped to protect and serve the city's most vulnerable children. On behalf of more than 8 million New Yorkers, I want to thank John Mattingly for his transformative leadership and wish him and his family the very best in Baltimore."

Mattingly was often put in the hot seat by critics for discrepancies during his tenure, including the death of two children under his watch and endless outrage over cuts ASC endured that resulted in layoffs and overwhelmed caseworkers.

The deaths of Nixzmary Brown in 2007, who died at the hands of her mother and stepfather, and Marchella Pierce, who died in 2010, had many questioning Mattingly's management. Both children were supposed to be monitored by ASC caseworkers, who were accused of failing to do their jobs properly.

The death of Brown prompted major changes and reforms in ASC.

In a statement, the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York (CCC) also gave Mattingly a positive farewell, highlighting the reduction in the number of foster care children in residential care settings and the closure of the Spofford Detention Facility.

"New York City's children have not only benefited from Commissioner Mattingly's efforts over the past seven years, but will continue to benefit for years to come from the systemic change the commissioner brought to the child welfare system," said Jennifer March-Joly, CCC executive director.

In an interview with the AmNews, Anthony Wells, president of Social Services Union Local 371, said that the union that represents ASC caseworkers wishes him well and that is looking forward to the next commissioner.

"We had some difference with Mr. Mattingly," Wells said. "We didn't always see eye to eye. We did find a chance to work together on recent layoffs. What we would like to see is a stop to the downsizing of the agency."