Updated: 3:05 p.m.
The embattled commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is stepping down, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday.
Kathryn O’Day’s resignation comes on the heels of a legal battle with The Tennessean and a coalition of media companies over access to records on deaths of children the department had contact with.
“She was concerned that she had become more of a focus than the children the department serves,” Haslam said Tuesday.
The governor has replaced her temporarily with Jim Henry, commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. He will oversee both departments until the governor appoints a permanent replacement.
DCS announced Monday it would hand over records on the child deaths for a charge of more than $55,000 per child.
The legal battle came from months of the agency denying media access to records of children who have died or nearly died since 2009 after having interaction with DCS. A Davidson County chancellor last month ordered the state to provide redacted records on some 200 children.
Lawmakers have called for the O’Day’s resignation for months. The most vocal is Rep. Sherry Jones Nashville.
“While I am happy to see Gov. Haslam finally coming around to addressing our concerns about DCS, this announcement is long past due,” she said in a statement. “While I hope to have a good working relationship with Interim Commissioner Jim Henry, there are still many questions that need to be answered about the administration of DCS over the past two years.”
O’Day was scheduled to testify before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday, but according to the governor's office, she will not appear. Instead, Commissioner Henry will say a few words to lawmakers and the agency’s counsel, Doug Dimond, will testify.
O’Day was one of the first of Haslam’s appointees after his 2010 election. She had worked in Knoxville as the president and chief executive officer of Child & Family Tennessee.
Her career began as a youth counselor with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and later became vice president of program development and evaluation for Children’s Home Society of Florida and director of program services for Covenant House of Florida, according to her state bio.