SC politics: Democrats take aim at Haley over state’s troubled child-welfare agency

Posted on July 16, 2014 

Democrats take aim at Haley over state’s troubled child welfare agency

The Democratic Governor’s Association released its first campaign ad Tuesday, criticizing Republican Gov. Nikki Haley for the operation of the state’s troubled child welfare agency.

Haley’s opponent, Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, has made recent turmoil at Social Services a central theme of his campaign to unseat Haley in November.

The ad, part of a six-figure media buy, features Betsy Burton, a former Department of Social Services staff attorney who resigned, she says, because of a culture more concerned with numbers than the welfare of children. Burton said she had worked as a child advocate since 1977.

“I resigned from DSS because we actually were leaving children in dangerous situations to make the numbers look better. That really disturbed my conscience, and I did not wish to be a part of that,” she said, adding, “Nikki Haley is protecting her career instead of our children.”

(Sheheen of Camden has received a $50 campaign contribution from a Betsy Burton of Winnsboro, according to a recent campaign finance report. It is unclear if the two women are the same.)

Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey said the ad was “missing the facts.”

“As a mother, Governor Haley is intensely concerned about the children under DSS care,” Godfrey said. “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.”

Haley’s Cabinet agency took a hit when her appointed director of the agency, Lillian Koller, resigned amid increasing questions over whether Social Services mishandled abuse cases of children who later died.

Haley and Sheheen also will face independent petition candidate Tom Ervin, Libertarian Steve French, and United Citizens candidate Morgan Reeves.

•  You can see the ad online on the politics page of thestate.com.

Jamie Self

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