A new ad out Wednesday from the Democratic Governors Association is going after Gov. Nikki Haley and the Department of Social Services.
It shows former DSS staff attorney Betsy Burton lashing out at Haley, saying “Nikki Haley is protecting her career instead of our children.”
“I resigned from DSS because we actually were leaving children in dangerous situations to make the numbers look better,” said Burton in the ad.
A Post and Courier quote comes up on screen after she says that: “covering up systemic problems.” If you look that article up, you’ll find it’s not a news article at all. It’s an opinion piece. If you scroll down to that quote, you’ll see it’s about former DSS Director Lillian Koller exaggerating numbers to the Senate oversight committee. It has nothing to do with employees putting children in danger to cook the books.
To be fair, Democratic state Sen. Joel Lourie on the oversight panel said DSS employees across the state have reached out to him complaining of a culture of intimidation within the agency. Senators are still looking for proof of any cover-ups.
“Either we’ve got a lot of people around the state who are working very hard and are just missing the boat, or there is a serious problem of morale, and trust, and competence and leadership at the agency,” said Lourie in April.
It’s become clear DSS has plenty of problems. The oversight panel is investigating why children died waiting for the help they need. DSS’ own numbers show many of its workers have caseloads well exceeding the maximum recommended.
Through it all, Haley continued to support the embattled Koller, even after she resigned last month.
“She’s always been a child advocate at heart. She’s a great mom,” said Haley after Koller’s resignation.
Koller said in her resignation letter she felt she had become a “distraction.”
Deputy state director for economic services Amber Gillum has stepped up as acting state director.
Haley’s campaign manager Rob Godfrey said the governor did not have time to talk about the ad Wednesday, but he did email a statement, which reads in part, “As a mother, Governor Haley is intensely concerned about the children under DSS care. The death of even one child is too many and tragic, and Governor Haley continues to press for reforms of the agency to continue to improve its services.”
The number of children who died after DSS got involved in their cases has actually gone down since Gov. Haley was elected in 2010. In 2009, 73 children died after DSS got involved. Last year, that number was down to 58.