Interim DCS commissioner rehires high-ranking director fired in January

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 4:39pm

The newly minted state commissioner of the Department of Children Services is reversing a move made by his predecessor by hiring back a top employee recently shed from the department.

Acting Commissioner Jim Henry has rehired Debbie Miller, formerly the agency’s executive director of family and child well-being. Miller returned Monday, said Molly Sudderth, spokeswoman for DCS.

“The department had a recent vacancy and Commissioner Henry asked Ms. Miller to return. He has known her work for many years and respects her skills and experience in the area of child welfare,” Sudderth said.

“She is part of the department’s leadership team and is currently helping in an area where the department has a recent vacancy,” she added, noting Miller is now working in the area of independent living.

Former Commissioner Kathryn O’Day removed Miller from the department in early January after months of the department coming under fire from media outlets, led by The Tennessean, seeking access to files detailing circumstances of deaths of children who had been in contact with the department.

A spokeswoman at the time said Miller’s position was eliminated due to restructuring. The firing came the same day the department was in court about access to the records.

The media coalition and the state are still fighting the issue in court, namely focused on how much the state should charge for access to the records originally quoted at $55,000.

Prior to working for DCS, Miller came to the agency with three decades of work in public policy and children’s welfare. Upon Miller’s return, she is collecting the same $90,000-per-year salary she was receiving before her position was eliminated.

Miller is also the wife of former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell.

7 Comments on this post:

By: Rocket99 on 3/21/13 at 7:07

Good move on the part of the Commissioner.

By: wasaw on 3/21/13 at 8:22

Just politics folks! Ms. Debbie Miller is the wife of former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell. Mr. Henry finally got into position to repay an old political debt. Ms. Miller has no more skills than any other mid-level manager. The Department of Children's Services is not a “rocket science” type job. It's strictly a working-with-people job, like most all other "people services" positions. Unfortunately, DCS primarily deals with the poor, the uneducated, the malnourished, the defenseless, and the unwanted. The career length of the low level workers is very short. And then there are the Debbie Miller’s who never get out of their office to walk in the filth and grime of some of the homes, where the poor defenseless children are found, and will always be employed. Isn’t it strange that the job requirement skills for her new job is paying the exact money as her old job? It’s public money folks. We wouldn’t expect a former mayor’s wife to take a pay cut, like others have had to do, would we? After all, she’s part of Tennessee’s political royalty.

By: Rocket99 on 3/22/13 at 6:38

Gee wasaw, this is politics at it's finest I guess. If you happen to notice, the Commissioner and Ms. Miller are of totally different political parties. Why would a Republican hire a Democrat to pay an old political debt? Yes, her husband is a former legislator and Nashville mayor but, she has been employed and otherwise working in the area of childrens issues for quite a long time.

Debbie Miller is the kind that, if needed, will visit the homes and facilities. She is very well qualified.

Sounds like you have a bone to pick and are just grasping at straws trying to do so.

By: dogmrb on 3/22/13 at 7:22

Debbie Miller is an experienced, intelligent administrator and it shows the quality of the Commissioner to rehire her. Debbie Miller has been working for children, especially disadvantaged children, her entire career. She probably was clearly outspoken to the former Commissioner who was in way over her head. Now she was the Politics in the game!

By: wasaw on 3/22/13 at 8:45

Rocket99, the comments in your post reflect your ignorance in any level of politics. Politicians grease each others palms, regardless of their political affiliation. Do your homework before you post again. The world is not always as you want it to be,or as the media wants us to believe.
dogmrb, what is it about Ms. Miller that sets her so apart from the thousands of other mid-level available ,that cannot be found in any other experienced manager candidate in Tennessee, besides the issue that she's married to the former state Representative and former Nashille mayor, Bill Purcell? Name me another instance where an employee was fired in an administration and rehired within the same administration, at the same pay? What outstanding talents does Mrs. Purcell possess that brings this about? Oh yes, I forgot. She's married to the former state Representative and former Nashille mayor, Bill Purcell That's just a small item in her resume that we can't get over.

By: dogmrb on 3/22/13 at 2:37

Have you looked at her resume? She does not go by Mrs. Purcell either. She is a very independent and accomplished professional and would find your insuniations amusing. Before joining the State she had at least two decades of working with VIPPs and before that direct Social Service experience. Ms. O'Day probably found Ms. Miller intimidating. It would be an interesting story to know.

By: govskeptic on 3/22/13 at 3:45

The temporary Commissioner Henry is just as Political as all the other now and past.
Mrs. (Miller) Purcell ran the Children's Home over in the Sylvan Park area, so whether
that makes her qualified for the position now held is for the administration to debate.
Maybe Mr. Henry used Bill for political advice in his failed Republican Primary race
for Governor, on the low down, of course.