published Thursday, January 10th, 2013

2 top-level DCS staffers severed from department

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has dismissed two upper-level staffers whose duties included the review of child deaths.

Alan Hall told The Tennessean he was shocked to be fired Tuesday from his post as executive director of performance and quality improvement.

“I’m evaluating my options,” Hall said.

DCS spokeswoman Molly Sudderth confirmed the other person let go Tuesday was Debbie Miller, executive director of family and child wellbeing. Sudderth said Miller’s job was eliminated in a restructuring, but Hall will be replaced. She didn’t say why Hall was fired.

Miller did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The departures came the same day that a Nashville judge held a hearing on news organizations’ lawsuit that seeks death records on 31 children who had come into contact with the department.

The dismissals of Hall and Miller are the latest in the department, which has seen a lot of turnover since Kate O’Day became Children’s Services Commissioner two years ago.

The Tennessean reported in November that more than 70 executive-level employees had been terminated during her time. That amounts to more employees, and a higher rate of dismissals, than all but a handful of other state government departments.

Miller is 61 years old and had been at DCS for a year and a half. Her personnel file shows she directed the Vanderbilt University Child and Family Policy Center for more than a decade, had directed the Tennessee Board of Parole and had worked with Metro Nashville serving children in state custody.

Hall is 47 years old. His background is in law and banking. He has been a state employee for more than a decade. As inspector general for the Department of Human Services, he supervised a staff of 100 and helped the department recoup money spent improperly on health benefits.

Hall and Miller had salaries above $90,000 annually. Executive service employees serve “at will,” meaning the state doesn’t have to give a reason for dismissal.

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