By: The Associated Press/ Reporting by Kirsten Glavin
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Rhode Island's top human services official has stepped down amid concerns over the botched roll out of the state's public benefits system.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo confirmed Tuesday that she had accepted the resignation of Secretary of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Roberts. "I agree that it's time for new leadership because we have to fix this," said Governor Raimondo.
Raimondo said it was Roberts' decision to leave the administration.
"It was her choice and I commend her for it, you know. I think she realized as I realized that the challenges we're having with UHIP require a new set of eyes," the Governor said.
But Republican Representative Michael Chippendale, a member of the oversight committee, told ABC6 News in an interview that he believes it may have been due to political pressure from the Governor's administration.
"I don't know if that leadership was a lack of leadership on the part of Secretary Roberts, or if Secretary Roberts hand was being forced by the Governor herself," said Rep. Chippendale. "Right now we have an administration that is playing the blame-game and accepting people's resignations and allowing the scape-goating to continue. That is not how you solve a problem of this nature."
The Governor added that Roberts, a former lieutenant governor, understood the challenges the state faced with United Healthcare Infrastructure Project and that a “fresh set of eyes” was needed.
Two other state officials, Department of Human Services Director Melba Depena Affigne and Chief Digital Officer Thom Guertin, resigned earlier this month and the state announced it was suspending further payment to contractor Deloitte Consulting.
Technical problems plaguing the $364 million computer system caused thousands of delays in distributing food stamp benefits.