DSS director testifies; won't step down

COLUMBIA (WACH/WCIV) - Lillian Koller finally appearing before the Department of Social Services Oversight Subcommittee on Wednesday.

DSS Director Koller has been noticeably absent from the past four meetings, citing health concerns.

Wednesday's primary focus was on DSS worker caseloads, child fatalities, and Koller's overall ability to lead the agency.

"I think there's a tremendous void in leadership. I really do. I leave here today even more convinced than I was two weeks ago that we've got the wrong person running the agency." said Sen. Joel Lourie, a member of the subcommittee.

But Koller fought back tooth and nail to defend her position.

"If I thought that my resignation would save the life of even one child, the governor would have my resignation," said Koller.

Child deaths are a major concern cross the board.

DSS says there's been a 25 percent decline, but lawmakers say they aren't buying it.

"In 2011, there were 67 fatalities that had DSS involvement. In 2013, there were 67 fatalities that had DSS involvement. How does that represent a 25 percent decline?" asked Lourie during the meeting.

Koller responded, saying part of problem is those who compiled the statistics counted DSS as being involved in a case, no matter how slight the involvement may have been.

"They had included a post mortem. A child where our involvement was simply because we were asked to intervene and take the other children from the home." answered Koller.

Contributing to the DSS' problems even more{} is the problem of overburdened case workers.

Koller said during the hearing that the number of workers has been increased and the agency is looking add even more.

Committee members plan to question Koller again in the next few weeks.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard said leadership starts at the top and that DSS is just one example of a troubled state agency under Gov. Nikki Haley's leadership.{}