The appointment of Assistant Attorney General Robert Hildum as head of the District's juvenile justice rehabilitation agency is the latest step in the consolidation of Attorney General Peter Nickles' power inside the Fenty administration.

According to two sources who were not cleared to publicly describe the mayor's private discussions, Nickles has been maneuvering to have Hildum placed at the head of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services for the past month. The decision to remove Schindler was made within the past week, after Nickles returned from vacation, the sources said.

Youth advocates also suspect Nickles as the driving force behind the decision.

"This was an abrupt decision [signaling] that the mayor is headed in a different direction," said Liz Ryan, CEO of Campaign for Youth Justice. "I'm very concerned about who was involved in this decision. ... Robert Hildum is with the attorney general's office. There's a pretty direct link."

Neither outgoing DYRS interim director Marc Schindler, nor his predecessor Vincent Schiraldi, reported to Nickles as other agency heads do, one source said. By placing Hildum at the top of DYRS, Fenty has added another agency to Nickles' zone of influence.

Nickles told The Washington Examiner that he played the role of "adviser" to Fenty on the decision.

Councilman Phil Mendelson, whose committee oversees the attorney general's office, said Nickles shouldn't be involved at all.

"The attorney general is supposed to be independent," Mendelson said. "He is neither a deputy mayor nor a substitute mayor."