The Tennessee Department of Childrens Services announced the dismissal of Shelby County regional administrator Juanita White today citing personal reasons of White and the department as reason for her termination
DCS Commissioner Michael Miller made the announcement Friday at the state office building, 170 N. Main, following a meeting with supervisors in the Memphis office. The dismissal comes as the state office is conducting an internal investigation of botched investigations by employees into the deaths of several Shelby County children.
This office has been through a lot in the last couple of years. This is a very humbling job and we hope to put someone in place who recognizes that, said Miller.
Miller said other firings have not been ruled out pending the results of the investigation. A Davidson County regional director was also terminated two months ago for performance and membership on the DCS team.
Miller said that the Shelby County office has problems with supervision and training. What we have had is a problem with preparing sufficient supervisory staff to guide them, said Miller.
In addition to Whites termination, the department named Trudy Weatherford and Bill Hackett interim administrators. Weatherford, a retired DCS employee and former Child Protective Services program director, will head program management throughout the region. Hackett, currently childrens services assistant administrator will lead the Memphis office. Permanent replacement for the position is expected later this summer, chosen by a panel of community leaders, child advocates, and department employees.
Former DCS employee Diana Lowry first made allegations regarding Whites involvement in alleged cover-ups of the deaths of at least six children. Lowry, who was terminated in December 2001, had previously applied for the position of regional director. She has since withdrawn her application.
The investigation into the deaths, originally scheduled for completion in a week, has been delayed following the death of of 8-month-old Dewayne Butler last week. DCS received complaints about abuse of the child in April, but later dismissed the charges as unfounded.
Miller and other administrators met last week with members of the Shelby County Legislative delegation regarding the departments progress with the investigation and the Shelby County office. Representative Carol Chumney has also planned a public hearing on DCS July 10.
An state audit of the department issued earlier this year listed several findings involving questionable transactions by White and her staff, including the more than $5,000 rental of a yacht club for a department event, expenditures for billboard advertisements, and T-shirts from the spouse of a department employee.
Whites firing comes after the resignations of CPS director Sherry Abernathy and Lou Martinez part of the child fatality review team. Department officials have said that both Abernathys and Martinezs resignations were not related to the problems in the Memphis regional office, but were for retirement and other employment opportunities, respectively.