By Tony Gonzalez / The Tennessean
Two executive-level Department of Children's Services staffers - whose duties at the agency included reviewing the deaths of children - were fired Tuesday.
Continuing coverage of the Department of Children's Services
• Debbie Miller, 61, executive director of family and child well-being, who oversaw medical and behavioral health and education for children in custody and independent living for teens that age out of DCS custody; and
• Alan Hall, 47, executive director of performance and quality improvement, who oversaw department policies, licensing and accountability, and who led the department's internal audit.
Department spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said Miller's position was eliminated as part of a restructuring. Hall will be replaced. The Tennessean asked why Hall was dismissed, and Sudderth did not give an answer.
In a Tennessean review of personnel files in October, neither Hall nor Miller had any reprimands. Information about their service since then was not immediately available, Sudderth said.
Reached by phone, Hall said Wednesday he was "certainly shocked" at his firing.
"I'm evaluating my options," he said.
Miller did not return calls.
The firings are the latest for a department that has seen a high level of executive turnover since Commissioner Kate O'Day took charge in January 2011. The Tennessean reported in November that more than 70 executive-level employees had been terminated during her time - more employees, and a higher rate of dismissals, than all but a handful of other state government departments.
The firings occurred the same day DCS officials appeared in Davidson County Chancery Court to argue that state records on child fatalities should not be made public. The Tennessean, joined by a statewide coalition of newspapers and TV news operations, has requested documents related to 31 children who died in the first half of 2012 who had prior contact with the department.
During the court hearing, the department's internal Child Fatality Review Team was briefly discussed - a team that included Hall and Miller. Asked if they will be replaced on the team, Sudderth said the structure of the team and its approach to fatality reviews are already under review.
Miller and Hall worked their last day Tuesday, similar to other abrupt DCS firings. In the past two years, DCS was among the five state departments with the highest rate of involuntary dismissals.
Before working at DCS for about a year and a half, Miller had more than 30 years of public policy and child welfare experience. 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, according to her state personnel file.
Miller is married to former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell.
Hall, an attorney, came from a banking and legal background and joined the state of Tennessee in 2002. As the Department of Human Services inspector general, Hall helped the department recoup money spent improperly on health benefits and supervised a staff of more than 100.
In recommending Hall to DCS in spring 2012, a letter described him as responsible for revamping DHS investigative services and as being an "extreme asset" with skills to deal with legal issues in child abuse investigations.
Executive service employees serve "at will," which means they can be removed at any time without a stated reason.
Hall and Miller had salaries of more than $90,000 annually.