City Councilman Oliver Koppell called today for ACS Commissioner John Mattingly to step down from his post following the death of a four-year-old girl, Marchella Pierce, who was supposed to be under the agency’s supervision.
Pierce died last September of child abuse syndrome, and also suffered acute drug poisoning, malnutrition, and blunt impact injuries. Both Damon Adams, the welfare worker assigned to the child’s case, and his supervisor Chereece Bell have been indicted by Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes on charges of criminally negligent manslaughter. Hynes doesn’t intend to stop here, however-he recently announced the appointment of a special grand jury to investigate “evidence of alleged systematic failures” at the agency.
“I think that the time is passed when we need new leadership at the ACS,” Koppell said. “This shows that the system is just not working the way it should work, and children are not being protected.”
A report about the tragedy found a significant number of child welfare cases that had been inappropriately closed, as well as a number of instances in which children who were in imminently dangerous living situations did not receive proper intervention or care. Bloomberg has publicly defended Mattingly, who in turn has stated that he recognizes his agency’s shortcomings. Koppell, however, believes that a complete overhaul will be necessary, and that the agency needs “stronger leadership that makes sure that the personnel do their job.”
“I’m sure he’s well intentioned, but he has not done the job,” Koppell said of the commissioner. “This is an instance where change is long overdue.”