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McMahon announces independent review of CPS caseworker's cases after Syracuse boy's death

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon provides comments on an independent review of one CPS caseworker's work, March 26.
Abigail Connolly
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon provides comments on an independent review of one CPS caseworker's work, March 26.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced Tuesday that two retired family court judges, Martha Mulroy and Martha Walsh Hood, will perform an independent review of all the cases handled by the CPS caseworker who was assigned the case involving Ashton DeGonzaque, an 11-year-old who died in Syracuse earlier this month from an accidental drug overdose. McMahon said this is a step toward uncovering gaps in the system.

“That is an important process,” McMahon said. “It is important that the community knows that the caseworker who made such a horrific decision and did such a horrific job, that that work is being looked at so that we know if we have to go back to families, open up cases again, and so that has been an ongoing process these last few weeks.”

He said the review will help to determine whether other children’s cases need to be reassessed.

“Overall what we think, what we know today, is that we had employees that did horrific work and in addition to that, we want to review the work that’s been done on other cases to make sure that we are not missing the mark relating to another child that this caseworker has seen,” McMahon said.

If the review identifies inadequate casework, the Department of Children and Family Services will contact the families involved to reassess the safety of all children.

The independent review will focus solely on the cases of one caseworker and no full County CPS investigation will be conducted yet McMahon said.

“My position is that this is not a resource issue and to date, we do not believe that this is a systemic issue within the department,” McMahon said. “That can change.”

McMahon made this announcement as another Syracuse child’s death is being investigated. 5-year-old Nefertiti Harris was allegedly killed by her mother in early January – Syracuse Police were notified just this week. McMahon says although these cases are unrelated, protecting the vulnerable remains a top priority.

“We really have zero margin for error and when we have an error we need to address it thoroughly and comprehensively and that’s what we are trying to do right now,” McMahon said.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.