A kinder, gentler Koller is promised
The head of Human Services apologizes
Human Services Director Lillian Koller apologized to employees she might have offended by her management style and pledged to work on that aspect of her personality if reconfirmed.
"I apologize to anyone I may have hurt," Koller told a Senate panel considering her nomination to a second four-year term. "I promise to listen more closely to your concerns, and I promise to do a better job of changing my ways for the better.
"I do understand how my enthusiasm for this job makes me hard to take sometimes."
Koller apologized even though there had been no public testimony presented against her nomination during a six-hour hearing Tuesday in the Senate Human Services and Public Housing Committee.
At that hearing, committee Chairwoman Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Kalihi-Liliha) said she had spoken to numerous department employees who were critical of Koller but refused to come forward publicly unless it appeared Koller's nomination would be defeated.
Chun Oakland said she could not make that promise.
Koller acknowledged that she has a tendency to be overbearing and domineering, but also added that many employees share her commitment to making the department better.
"I have high expectations for myself, and I ask a lot of my staff," she said. "I promise to do a better job in terms of employee relationships. ... I know I can do a better job, and I am committed to doing so."
A decision by the committee is expected next week. Koller's nomination would then go to the Senate floor for a vote by the full 25-member chamber.
Koller's confirmation came the same week the Senate rejected the nomination of Iwalani White to head the Department of Public Safety, citing an overwhelming amount of negative testimony. It marked the first time that the Senate had rejected a Lingle Cabinet appointee.
At Tuesday's hearing the committee heard only praise for Koller from a parade of private citizens, department employees and officials from various social service organizations. At least two former Democratic lawmakers also spoke on her behalf.
Backers described her as an innovative, open-minded and analytical leader who has expanded services and helped attract matching federal funds for state programs.