Hickenlooper Stands By Embattled Human Services Director Reggie Bicha

Photo: DHS executive director Reggie Bicha
Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, stands in his office in Denver in May 2013.

Gov. John Hickenlooper gave a vote of confidence to the embattled leader of the state's Department of Human Services on Tuesday, calling him and his staff among the best of the nation.

State lawmakers are concerned with how the DHS Executive Director Reggie Bicha manages the child welfare and mental health system.

The governor's endorsement came after a Capitol ceremony Tuesday recognizing Bicha and Hickenlooper for their work on the state's foster care system.

It was the two men’s first joint appearance since more than 80 lawmakers blasted Bicha's department in a letter to Hickenlooper earlier this month. In the letter, lawmakers said they are hearing an increasing number of complaints about how the department operates, including tips from DHS employees describing a toxic work environment.

Bicha said he plans to meet with each lawmaker individually to address their concerns.

“If they think we're going in the wrong direction, we'll understand why they think that and we'll work to see if we can't course correct that," Bicha said.

Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, said he hopes the letter will help spur badly needed administrative changes.

“The bottom line is we need to make sure that the work and the type of work that's done changes," Singer said.

Hickenlooper said he was surprised by the concerns addressed in the letter and that he is confident all sides will communicate better going forward.