YMCA CEO avoids conviction

Sean Philip Cotter, 505-5437/@SPCotterYD

The head of the YMCA of York has entered into a program that would allow him to avoid trial or a conviction on the charges that he failed to report suspected child abuse.

YMCA of York (Amanda J. Cain photo)

On Tuesday, the York County District Attorney's office dropped one charge of child endangerment against Larry M. Richardson, 56, of 1688 Lilac Road in West Manchester Township. Richardson, the president and CEO of the local YMCA, has entered into the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition diversionary program, which, upon successful completion, will allow his one remaining misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected child abuse to be expunged.

Richardson, who has remained on administrative leave with the YMCA since June, will return to his job, according to a release from the YMCA's board of directors.

"We look forward to him continuing to help us serve our community," the board said of Richardson, who has worked there for 23 years.

In order to complete the 12-month ARD program, Richardson will have to complete 35 hours of community service in four months and bring a letter of apology to the victims during an ARD hearing, according to online court documents.

His attorney, Chris Ferro, said in a statement that his client hasn't pleaded guilty, admitted wrongdoing or been found guilty.

"Mr. Richardson remains, in every sense of the word, an innocent man," Ferro said in the release.

The charges: Northeastern Regional Police allege that Richardson willfully failed to report child abuse that purportedly happened in 2014 at Camp Spirit, the Y's summer day camp in East Manchester Township. 

Throughout Richardson's June preliminary hearing, Ferro referred to the 2014 incident — which happened between two 12-year-old boys, both of whom are considered special-needs kids — as being mutual, consensual sexual exploration. He said no one at the YMCA, including the camp's director, had any reason to believe either boy would return to camp and sexually assault a small child.

Ferro acknowledged that Richardson, who by state law is a mandated reporter of child abuse, made a judgment call in not reporting the incident to ChildLine, the state's child-abuse hotline. But, he argued, if the consensual touching was child abuse, which boy was the perpetrator?

"Tell me who got abused here," Ferro said.

Senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy argued the decision wasn't Richardson's to make.

"That is a decision to be made by law enforcement," Murphy told the judge, as to whether the encounter was consensual or not.

Civil suit: One of the boys, whom The York Dispatch is identifying by the initial B., returned to Camp Spirit for the 2015 season. It's his return that eventually spurred Northeastern Regional Police to investigate the 2014 incident and file charges alleging that Richardson should have reported the 2014 encounter to ChildLine.

A 5-year-old boy told staff that B. sexually assaulted him in 2015, and the YMCA workers did report that "immediately" to the state, Richardson has told The York Dispatch.

The 5-year-old's mother has sued the YMCA of York, as well as the YMCA of the USA, alleging the organization failed to inform other campers or their parents of a "severe risk of harm" to other children by B. and that the organization took no precautions to keep other young campers safe from B. It was only after the mother alerted police to the 2015 incident that YMCA staff told police about the 2014 encounter, according to the lawsuit.

Harrisburg-based attorney Nate Foote, who works in the offices of Ben Andreozzi, who represents the mother and her son, said the lawsuit is still active.

Anyone who suspects a child is being abused and neglected is urged to call the state's ChildLine at 800-932-0313.

— Sean Cotter covers York City for The York Dispatch. Contact him atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.