GOV. Mary Fallin made a good choice in naming Wes Lane to chair the board that oversees the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. How long Lane winds up holding the job is anyone's guess.
His predecessor, Brad Yarbrough, served nine months as chairman of the Human Services Commission before relinquishing the job in June, citing the tremendous amount of time required to do the job well. Wrestling with other commissioners and trying to keep an eye on DHS during a time of important transition had put Yarbrough through the wringer — he wanted to give up his chairmanship in March, but stuck around at Fallin's urging. Indeed at the meeting where he stepped down as chairman (he remains a commissioner), one board member sought to have Yarbrough censured over one of his decisions.
Lane joined the board at the same time as Yarbrough, but he could be eased out in November. That's when voters will be asked if they want to do away with the Human Services Commission and replace it with four citizen advisory panels whose members would be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.
That proposal was offered by the Legislature as a way to change the monitoring and operations of DHS, the state's largest agency and one that has been the subject of considerable upheaval in the past year. Concerns about a series of high-profile child abuse deaths, and lax oversight by board members, prompted Fallin to appoint Yarbrough and Lane last September. Subsequently, the agency's longtime director resigned and the state settled a class-action lawsuit filed over DHS's care of foster children. As part of that settlement, a number of reforms are being implemented that will require strong leadership from the next agency director.