LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The embattled leader of one of Louisville's oldest child care agencies has resigned.

After 16 years as President of Sunrise Children's Services, Bill Smithwick is out. The controversial debate over Sunrise's hiring policy ultimately cost him his job.

"We appreciate so much his faithful service to the children and to Sunrise over 16 years and wish him all the best as he moves forward," said Paul Chitwood, Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Smithwick came under fire after asking the board of the Baptist-affiliated agency to reconsider its policy prohibiting the hiring of open gays and lesbians.

Smithwick said he was concerned about possible future loss of state and federal funds.

The Sunrise board kept the policy in place. But during the Kentucky Baptist Convention's annual meeting last month, Smithwick was given a vote of no-confidence.

At the time, WDRB asked Smithwick about his future.

"It's not about anything other than can I help the kids," he said. "If I can do that, for as long as I can do that, I'll do it."

It wasn't long. Smithwick is now gone, along with Sunrise's chief financial officer.

"Sunrise is going to be absolutely fine. Let's move forward," said Sunrise development director Dale Suttles, who is now serving as interim president.

He says his focus is the 1,400 abused kids the agency serves.

"We're one of the largest private child care providers for hurting kids in the state of Kentucky. And I do not see that changing," said Suttles.

But what about Smithwick's concern about the possible loss of government funds?

"Sunrise provides a service. We care for children on behalf of the state. And the state needs us in that role. For all I can tell, the state is grateful for the job that we're doing. And we hope that partnership can continue," said Chitwood.

The Sunrise Board has begun the search for a new president. Suttles would not say whether he will be a candidate.

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