SC

Lazenby: Nikki Haley Must Remove Embattled Welfare Director

LILLIAN KOLLER CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE LEADING SCDSS By Amy Lazenby || The embattled director of the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS) finally appeared this week before a State Senate panel charged with investigating the ongoing fiasco at the Palmetto State’s child welfare agency. Director Lillian Koller was grilled…

LILLIAN KOLLER CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE LEADING SCDSS

By Amy Lazenby || The embattled director of the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS) finally appeared this week before a State Senate panel charged with investigating the ongoing fiasco at the Palmetto State’s child welfare agency. Director Lillian Koller was grilled for nearly three hours by State Senators Tom Young, Jr. (R-Aiken) Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) and Joel Lourie (D-Richland).

The special subcommittee has spent months investigating claims that the agency failed to appropriately handle abuse cases that eventually led to the deaths of children.

Previously, the panel has taken testimony from from child-welfare advocates, county coroners and former SCDSS employees relating to the allegation that child deaths have increased during Koller’s tenure at the agency. Before this week’s hearing, Koller had been working from home since suffering an apparent stroke last December and had not testified before the special Senate subcommittee. She has been seen, however, in her office and at public functions, including Gov. Nikki Haley’s State of the State address and a dinner at the Governor’s Mansion last month.

Koller was questioned not only about the deaths of children who were supposedly being followed by SCDSS, but also about social workers’ caseloads at the agency as well as the processing time of cases. Declining to resign from her position in the face of mounting criticism, Koller told the senators, “If I thought that my resignation would save the life of even one child, the governor would have my resignation.”

Koller insisted that child fatalities were investigated and that several caseworkers had left the agency as a result, and she also told legislators that changes could be made in state law that would help the agency do a better job of protecting South Carolina’s children. The panel was clearly not satisfied with the answers it received from Koller, and senators plan to recall her for more questioning in the next two to three weeks.

At this point it has become clear that Governor Haley must remove Lillian Koller from office. Changes in caseworker staffing and regulations could certainly help the situation at SCDSS, but those “fixes” do not get to the root of the problem – a director whose “leadership” has failed South Carolina’s children.

One county coroner testified last month that he did not believe the high number of child fatalities seen at SCDSS in the past two years was a “boots on the ground” issue. He said the indication he got while completing death investigations was that caseworkers were pressured by “higher-ups” at SCDSS to lower the number of abuse cases at the agency by farming them out to independent child welfare groups to reduce the number of cases on the books, and this prevented social workers from adequately protecting children.

Additionally, several former SCDSS employees have testified before the panel about a culture of fear, intimidation, bullying and pressure to get cases “off the books” at the agency during Koller’s tenure.

Governor Haley continues to stand by her appointee, however, insisting that child deaths have dropped 25 percent since Koller took office. If those numbers are the result of the agency farming out cases to independent child welfare groups to dump children from its rolls, however, that’s not an accurate assessment – it’s cooking the books at the expense of abused and neglected children.

Another county coroner testified previously that, contrary to Governor Haley’s assessment last month that Koller was a “rock star” under whom “all the numbers that I worked with her on have improved,” the child fatality situation at SCDSS has not gotten any better over the past two years in her experience. Although the coroner has questioned why children were returned to homes where alleged abuse took place in the past, it seemed to her that in the last two years – during Koller’s tenure at the agency – she has dealt with an increase in what she called “glaring” cases – those where multiple red flags were raised prior to a homicide. The coroner said that while some legal loopholes could be closed, she has seen a basic “lack of common sense” from SCDSS leadership.

Haley doubled down on her defense of her appointee after this week’s hearing, however, issuing the following statement through her spokesman, Doug Mayer:

“Director Koller showed today exactly why the governor appointed her in the first place – she is a committed advocate for South Carolina’s children, and someone who has overseen dramatic improvement in an agency that deals with some of the toughest, most tragic situations in our state. Governor Haley is proud of director Koller, the staff at DSS, and the changes they have made.”

One senator from the governor’s own party who has been serving on the special subcommittee doesn’t appear to be as certain about Koller’s leadership abilities. Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) said after the hearing, “I think that we’re at a point now that we have to make a decision (about whether Koller should continue as Director of SCDSS). I’m not the person to get to make that decision, but I think somebody needs to make a decision.”

Because the SCDSS Director is a cabinet-level position, only the governor can remove her. Several officials, most notably Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Richland), have called for Koller to step down. Because Koller has now refused to resign, it is time for Governor Haley to remove her. It is past time, actually. By continuing to stand behind an appointee who has exhibited such poor judgement and a clear failure of leadership at the expense of one of the state’s most vulnerable populations – abused and neglected children – Governor Haley is allowing her own judgement and leadership ability to be called into question.

lazenby

Amy Lazenby is the Associate Opinion Editor for FITSNews. Contact her at amy@fitsnews.com and follow her on Twitter @Mrs_Laz.

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46 comments

ReElect Nikki April 17, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Why remove her?The people of SC LIKE the way Nikki is running the state.Cranks like you,Fits and the rabble hereabouts are bitching but,as todays Rasmussen Poll shows(Nikki leading Sheheen,52/37),its a great day in South Carolina!

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CorruptionInColumbia April 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

“The people of SC LIKE the way Nikki is ruinning the state.”

There, I fixed that for you.

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jimlewisowb April 17, 2014 at 3:29 pm

har, har, har

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Deo Vindice SC April 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm

The people of Rasmussen like the way she is running the state.

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ReElect Nikki April 17, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Get off of it DV.Unlike most of the rabble here,you GET IT.Nikki is going to win because she’s the REPUBLICAN.You know it.I know it and the rest of the Crowd here does(although they wont admit it).Hell most of them are going to vote for her!All she’s got to do is howl Obama!Nancy Pelosi!Harry Reid!(although none of them really have anything to do with state government here in SC) and these ol boys will be falling all over themselves to slap down them damn libruls.It wont be close.

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Deo Vindice SC April 17, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Either way SC will lose. Make ya feel better?

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ReElect Nikki April 18, 2014 at 8:03 am

The people of SC have the government they WANT.I guess it depends on how one defines “losers.”Apparently the good folk here think with Nikki?They are WInners,

GrandTango April 17, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Duh…you liberals are so dull and predictale…

Newt advocated the expasion of orphanges 20 years ago. Liberal social service industry pimps went ape-$#|t…because it cut off your gravy train to govt money.

You dont care about the welfare of children…just politics and your greed. So quit lying…

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Deo Vindice SC April 17, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Get off the planet, moron!

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euwe max April 17, 2014 at 7:15 pm

If DT were to get off, the planet would stop spinning.

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CorruptionInColumbia April 17, 2014 at 2:54 pm

People Of SC: “Haley must be removed from office later this year. To send her back in is to court a worse disaster than the last four years of her have been.”

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euwe max April 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

To send her to court would be less of a disaster than the last four years have been….

Fixed that for you.

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CNSYD April 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Be sure to poll people in Alaska, Guam, Oklahoma, North Dakota, etc. Their opinion on SC matters is just as important as that of a GA resident and should be given all the consideration they are due….none.

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just another guy April 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm

[clap]

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a face in the crowd April 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Just once — try to make a substantive point.

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CNSYD April 17, 2014 at 3:28 pm

The only “point” you would agree with or understand is one that totally agreed with you. Not going to happen.

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euwe max April 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I totally agree with you.

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Ga fraud April 17, 2014 at 6:08 pm

My point exactly.

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jimlewisowb April 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Books and plays about those who walk a little lighter in their loafers are dealt with swiftly and to the point with condemnation, budget cuts and press releases

Children who have no lobbyists, no political power are dealt with swiftly and to the point with neglect, indifference, hollow committee meetings, press releases and goddamn stupid childish fucking Facebook postings

oh, almost forgot – sometimes the younger children, specifically those under the age of two, are scalded with hot water, have their heads rammed into a wall, shaken so violently their brains turn into mush or they are given a quick introduction into anal sex by a 6′ 2″ 225 lbs. boyfriend of the mother

The Gypsy Queen Cockroach Governor and the Cockroach Senator should apologize to every child in this State

These two Cockroaches have taken an issue vital to the safety and welfare of thousands of children and turned it into who can be the biggest bitch contest

Both of them should have their iPhones or whatever the hell they Facebook with shoved up their twats

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Loosey Goosey April 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

They might enjoy having their iPhones shoved up their twats. At least disable the vibrate function first.

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Nosey Nosington April 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm

“Nikki Haley Must Remove Embattled Welfare Director” says the Georgia resident.

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colnzgprnts April 18, 2014 at 9:31 pm

It isn’t the Georgia resident calling for the director to leave, It is two senators Sheheen and Lourie who made the call weeks ago and seems to diminish Louries objectivity. Sheheen wants to be guv and he hopes embarrassing Hayley will be a way to kickstart his northbound campaign. Two repubs on the subcommittee act like cheerleaders for Lourie and allow him to take the spotlight at each hearing. Shealy goes for the spotlight by attacking the director’s religious affiliation outside the hearings, but that is no different than Lourie telling the director in the course of interrogating her that his father was in the state assembly before him (somehow neither seems germane to DSS).

A most interesting sidelight of the spectacle is Lourie called a captain from SLED to testify at one of the hearings – the captain and/or SLED is asking for a half million dollars to expand his staff and a half million each year going forward. No one can fault SLED for an end-run to do a little empire building, but one has to wonder why Young (R, Aiken) is facilitating this raid on the state treasury. The old adage to “follow the money” seems appropriate, but so far following the money has come up dry except that SLED will be even more powerful at a time in our nation’s history when many worry that police are operating tanks and donning military garb.

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Ga fraud April 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm

While I don’t disagree with the premise of this article, but this dumbass writer isn’t even in South Carolina. Zero credibility! Go back.

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Seriously April 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Because people living in SC are doing such a fine job in this situation … It’s mind sets like yours that keep holding this state back. If you agree with the premise of the article, who cares where the writer lives? What does that have to do with her credibility?

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Ga fraud April 17, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Because I do not care what some dumbass in Georgia thinks about SC.

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ReElect Nikki April 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

No,that’s not accurate.You dont care what some DEMOCRAT thinks about SC.Get your BS straight Republican and vote for Nikki!Ya hear?

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Mike at the Beach April 18, 2014 at 11:27 pm

No, I think it’s the former.

beenthere April 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Gov. Haley must be living in la la land. How can she continue to support Koller and her managers @ DSS? Koller is nothing but a liar and has surrounded herself @ DSS with incompetent, no experience, ass kissing, lying managers and high paid consultants. What a sad day for children and families in SC when the Governor is more concerned about her political future than their safety. The Gov. could also care less about DSS State employees who have had to suffer the wrath of Koller and her goons these last few years. To say moral @ DSS is at an all time low would be an understatement. Even the Govs political supporters are no longer supporting Koller and sooner or later they will no longer support the Gov! Then it will truly be a “Great Day in SC” not only for children and families, but for DSS employees and all SC citizens. To use a quote often spoken by Koller, it appears “any monkey” can be Governor of SC!!!!

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southmauldin April 17, 2014 at 4:47 pm

If Haley got rid of Koller, it would be an admission that she made a mistake. And hell will freeze over before the Goobernor admits to a mistake.

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Deo Vindice SC April 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Get it straight, ANY “Republican Monkey”.

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junior justice April 17, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Perhaps (and just perhaps) Lillian has some “goodies” on Nikki.

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euwe max April 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Good luck with that – you should start with something easier, like eliminating arsenic from our diet.

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GrandTango April 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Like Obama could have gotten a real job before trying to be president….and maybe it would not have been such a disaster….right?

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Deo Vindice SC April 17, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Are you talking about a Lawyer or a clothing store salesperson, right?

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GrandTango April 17, 2014 at 6:11 pm

LMAO: Obama admitted he never did any work in the cushy lawyer job that was handed (like everything else) to him.

Remember: Obama said WORKING was like being behind enemy lines. That sorry Son of a B!*ch prolly cost the people trying to help him a million dollars…

And Sadly, that’s how he runs the country….

And I remember Obama telling the media he stole ice cream for his friends in his only other job, that was not community agitator…Some employee…

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Deo Vindice SC April 17, 2014 at 7:49 pm

And Nik really sold clothes, LOL, moron.

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Deo Vindice SC April 17, 2014 at 5:35 pm

People of SC, take a drive to the Ga state line and come back on I-95.

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sara April 18, 2014 at 12:23 am

what the hell does that even mean?

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Endrid. Cold April 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

You cant drive the roads without destroying your car for thw potholes…we are the new India..thanks Trikki Nikki Ranawaaaaaaaaaaawwww

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shrimpngrits April 17, 2014 at 9:03 pm

The only person who needs to be removed faster than Koller is the Director of DHEC, Catherine Templeton…

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Edgar April 17, 2014 at 10:18 pm

“Several officials, most notably Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Richland), have called for Koller to step down.”

Yeah, Joel, Haley will do that right after you call for the Richland County Election Commission and Board to step down. No, Wait. That’s a little too close to home, eh?

Will Auntie Jean bail y’all out on that one again? Joel, your corruption there is worse than Haley’s.

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rebellozit April 17, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Thank you Ms.Lazenby for your article as an opinion writer for this FANTASTIC venue to express our own opinions.The radical leftists,socialists,losers and perverted thinkers are being a little rough on you tonight-HOWEVER rejoice that the Christ haters will soon be going underground for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
May God Bless you and yours.That includes FitsNews.

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david April 18, 2014 at 12:02 am

killer is a joke. hailey is a joke. Neither care about the needy or the families that are causing harm to children. All they care about are “numbers” that make them look good. hailey has used DSS and DEW to pretend she’s doing something for SC, and both of these agencies have been falsifying the numbers to indicate whatever hailey wants them to reflect. killer doesn’t have the slightest idea what she’s doing. hailey just can’t afford to have yet another cabinet member resign, it’s making her look bad. I feel sorry for the people in this state. hailey doesn’t believe in killer, all she cares about is getting reelected at any cost. She would shoot killer in the face herself if she thought it would get her reelected. Hell, she sent her husband off to a “war zone” to increase her approval rating. It was win-win for her though, he’s off in “harms way” and she gets to continue her affairs and get the sympathy of the citizens.
killer is never going to resign, and hailey is never going to fire her. From the times I’ve seen killer, I’ve seen no indication of a stroke. I do see clear indication of ignorance. But, she is an attorney after all. I mean, I have to believe that she is based on her saying it at every possible chance she has to mention the fact that she attended law school. As if there is a soul in the world that cares she went to law school. Every meeting I see her speak in, eyes roll all around the room.
But you hang in there hailey and killer, I’m sure there is someone out there that really believes one, or both, of you really give a damn about helping this state out and not just your own self absorbed egos and pockets. But I’ll say one thing about you hailey, you are no doubt a typical political figure in modernity.

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Apollo April 18, 2014 at 8:54 am

Hey the heartless motherfuckers that support Haley dont give a fuck about protecting defenseless children as long as she protects their wallets…

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amazed April 18, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Sounds like some SC DEW bullshit

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Jamie Lanaster April 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

How dare you write a negative narrative about Queen Haley…she will unfriend..you or block you on Facebook. …tsk…tsk..

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