Embattled Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller has resigned, according to the Governor’s Office.
Koller had come under increasingly heavy criticism in the past few months as a South Carolina Senate investigation found a lack of communication and follow-up in the agency’s child protection division that may have caused some children to die from abuse and neglect.
The Governor’s Office released a copy of Koller’s resignation letter on Monday.
“It has become more and more apparent to me during the past few weeks that my being the State Director is causing a distraction and making it more difficult for DSS to continue the measurable improvements made to the Agency during my tenure that have improved the lives of the citizens we serve,” Koller wrote.
Several senators and House members had called for Koller to either step down or be fired, including two of the three members who served on a Senate subcommittee investigating the safety of children in DSS care. Sens. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, and Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, had previously said DSS did not appear to be following its own protocol for handling alleged cases of child abuse. Committee members also questioned the heavy workloads many caseworkers at the agency currently have. Koller was scheduled to testify before the panel a third time on Wednesday morning.
Several Columbia-area House members from both parties have also called for Koller’s removal. Haley’s likely opponent for governor, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, has called the problems “nothing short of a crisis.”
Haley has defended her appointee during the past six months of Senate hearings. She did so again on Monday. “Lillian Koller is a dedicated public servant and child advocate, and a wonderful and loving mother – and I am so grateful for her service to South Carolina,” Haley wrote in the announcement. “Under her leadership, DSS closed a $28 million deficit, moved more than 20,000 South Carolinians from welfare-to-work, and has done wonders to improve our foster care system, placing more South Carolina children in stable, healthy families.
State senators were expected to debate a possible vote of “no confidence” in Koller’s leadership on Tuesday.
The Governor’s Office said current DSS Deputy Director for Economic Services Amber Gillum will serve as the interim director until a permanent appointment is made.