“Kate’s job is or was incredibly difficult,” Haslam told the Tennessee Press Association’s winter convention this afternoon. “Somebody told me DCS has been in existence for like 16 years and we’ve had 16 bad years in a row. It’s the product of a merger of six different departments and there’s a lot of systems issues that haven’t been worked out. Kate felt ‘I can’t do my job well given where we are.’”
“Like I said, I’ve said it 10 times,” Haslam told reporters after his speech. “She said in her letter, ‘I’ve become a distraction. The focus here is on me, not on helping the kids.’”
He said O’Day was caught “in the middle of a storm.”
And here’s Senate speaker Ron Ramsey on the same topic at the same event:
I want to say this. This is not something that’s new. I do think we’re working toward reform over there. I remember the previous commissioner under Bredesen was honored by some national organization and I remember every legislator, including Democrats, was shocked by that because it was not being run well then. This is nothing new. We have proven with our leadership in the Senate and House that we can tackle tough problems. It’ll take a year or two, probably, but we can fix it.
Yes, the Republican media strategy is clear, and Democrats think they know who thought of it. They say they spied various administration officials eating breakfast this morning at the Hermitage Hotel with none other than Tom Ingram, the state GOP’s crisis management guru. Democrats don’t know what Ingram and the officials were talking about but they have their suspicions.
“They’re taking it seriously,” Rep. Mike Turner says of the PR difficulties presented by Children’s Services’ bad press. Making a baseball analogy, Turner said Haslam was going to Ingram to save the game, calling Ingram “the lefthander out of the bullpen.”
In another example of bullshit that won’t play with reporters, Haslam is trying to claim he had no choice but to charge media outlets $55,000 for records on the deaths of children who were in the department’s care or whose abuse or neglect had been reported to the state.
The media outlets had to sue to win release of the records, and Haslam says he was merely following the judge’s orders to determine the cost and report it.
“It’s now the court’s decision to say what happens next,” he said. He also claimed to the increasingly incredulous media gaggle that he actually won the lawsuit in which the judge ruled against his attempts to keep the records secret.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he said as one reporter was asking a question. “We did not lose this lawsuit. I want to be really clear. We’re fine with the results.”