Head of LA DSS resigns after criticism over Gustav shelters

Ann Williamson resigned as the head of LA Dept. of Social Services.
Ann Williamson resigned as the head of LA Dept. of Social Services.

By Jim Shannon - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Ann Williamson, the secretary of the Department of Social Services has resigned her post.

The governor's spokeswoman confirmed that Ann Williamson turned in her resignation Monday. Williamson recently came under fire by the Jindal administration for the department's performance in handling the federally-administered food stamp program after Hurricane Gustav.

Williamson was a rare holdover from the Blanco administration who was re-appointed by Jindal after he took over last January. The governor was very public about his feelings about the department's performance. Williamson's resignation as secretary comes only days after Jindal promised he would make "significant changes" at the Department of Social Services. That led to questions about whether Williamson would be fired by Jindal.

"I said there would be consequences. There will be significant changes made at the department. They been telling us their showers were in place. Well, that wasn't the case. They told us there would be air-conditioned facilities for the food stamp program. There were not. They told us they had sufficient workers to handle the volume of applicants. That wasn't the case. They weren't going to have to turn anybody away to get a food card and that wasn't the case. That's simply unacceptable," Jindal said.

Williamson's agency was publicly rebuked by the governor because of problems in handing out food stamps and setting up shelters for Gustav, which struck Louisiana on Labor Day. Williamson took responsibility for the problems but also has said the department performed nobly in its response to the storm and the follow-up blow of Hurricane Ike.

Governor Jindal has appointed gubernatorial policy advisor Kristy Nichols to serve as the interim director of the DSS. He said, "I want to thank Ann for her service to our state. I cannot overstate the vital role that the men and women of the Department of Social Services play during times of emergency. I know they have worked tirelessly for many days now, through two hurricanes, to help provide shelter, food and assistance to Louisianians - and even some Texans - affected by these storms. The hard work of DSS employees is part of the very spirit of our state, our efforts to work together in times of crisis and help strengthen one another. I thank DSS for their continued work to serve the people of our state when they are most in need of assistance."