New task force expands review of how Springfield diocese handled sexual abuse reports (copy)

Daniel Ford, a retired Pittsfield judge, has stepped down form his position leading a task force on improving the way the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield responds to allegations of sexual abuse.

The retired Pittsfield judge who formerly led an independent task force on sexual abuse for the Diocese of Springfield has stepped down from that role, citing a perceived conflict of interest.

The 10-member task force established last May is charged with looking at how the diocese can improve the way it handles reports of abuse.

Daniel Ford had been retained by the law firm Egan Flanagan & Cohen to advise on a civil matter. Although that matter did not relate to the Diocese of Springfield, the firm also represents the diocese.

“While my work with the law firm did not constitute a conflict of interest as prescribed by legal standards, in discussing this matter with the Task Force members it became clear to me that members of the group did have concerns,” Ford said in a statement published by MassLive.

“In recognition of that feedback and given the sensitivity of the subject matter being considered, even the appearance of a conflict, had the potential of compromising the credibility of the Task Force’s work.”

Ford submitted a letter of resignation to Bishop William Byrne on Friday, effective immediately. Byrne thanked Ford “for having guided the task force through its information gathering work these past months and his tireless advocacy of the task force in the news media.”

“He has shown a great understanding for the need of the Task Force’s work to be above any reproach, stepping down from work that he had fully committed himself to since last June,” Byrne said.

Irene Woods, who previously was vice chair of the task force, will chair the group, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Springfield said Wednesday. Woods is the founding executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County.

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle’s Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at djin@berkshireeagle.com, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.

Statehouse reporter

Danny Jin is the Eagle's Statehouse reporter. A graduate of Williams College, he previously interned at The Eagle and The Christian Science Monitor.