Interim director discusses ‘hostile and toxic’ work environment at state agency

Interim director discusses ‘hostile and toxic’ work environment at state agency

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - During his confirmation hearing Department on Aging interim director, Steven Morris read a letter from a long-time state employee who resigned this year.

The employee called the work environment “hostile and toxic.”

Morris said he understands morale is low at the state agency but is focused on turning that around. Morris is Governor Henry McMaster’s pick to be the next director for the Department on Aging.

Senators read letters and emails from employees alleging upper management bully and intimidate employees under Morris’ watch. “I didn’t contribute to it. I didn’t add to it. I have talked to several people about getting along with several employees,” Morris said.

Morris has been the interim director for a few months. He said he’s focused on making sure everyone follows state guidelines. “Every employee will be a lot happier if they don’t see someone doing something that is wrong and getting away with it,” he said.

Governor McMaster believes Morris can help turn things around and knows this isn’t a quick fix. “What I want to do is to be sure the staff and director are all working in the same direction,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

In addition to concerns of the work environment and Morris’ leadership, Senators asked Morris about accusations of racist, sexist and discriminatory behavior. Morris denied the accusations.

Senator Mia McLeod (D-Richland) questioned Morris during the hearing. She said, “It’s deeply concerning and I don’t believe Mr. Morris was able to adequately address those issues today.”

The Senate Family and Veterans’ Services Committee had to cut the confirmation hearing short because of budget deliberations on the Senate floor, but they say they will continue to question Morris again next Wednesday.

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