For Immediate Release
Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337
Republican Appointees Reject Chambers Appeal
More Litigation in U.S. Park Police Case Unless Obama Administration Intervenes
WASHINGTON - Republican appointees on the federal civil service review board have
rejected the appeal of former U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers,
prolonging a five-year legal odyssey triggered by her Washington Post
interview on dangerously low force levels endangering park visitors and
employees. The next step may take the case back to the federal court
which ruled for Ms. Chambers back in February 2008, according to her
lawyers from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Yesterday's ruling by the two remaining Republican members of the
Merits Systems Protection Board addressed the February ruling by the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that the board had not
properly addressed the question of whether Chief Chambers was removed
"in reprisal for making a protected disclosure" under the Whistleblower
Protection Act. In the absence of the third, Democratic, board member,
the two Bush appointees split on the question but concluded that
Chambers would have been removed anyhow.
Board Chairman Neil McPhie ruled that Chambers was a whistleblower, finding that:
- Her "statements concerning decreased police patrols on the
BW [Baltimore Washington] Parkway and the diversion of park police from
national parks, and the resultant increase in traffic accidents, drug
dealing and homeless vagrancy, constituted protected disclosures"; and
"statements that patrolling the George Washington Parkway with only two
officers had already required the USPP to ‘turn [their] backs on drunk
drivers' in order to avoid requiring the officers to abandon their
posts, identifies the specific cause of a specific and substantial risk
to public safety..."
Nonetheless, McPhie and Board Member Mary Rose concluded that
Chambers superiors were unhappy because "her interviews were
inconsistent with ‘what we want to be saying on our budget'".
"This ruling sets an impossible burden for civil servants who blow
the whistle on dangers to public safety and cannot be allowed to
stand," stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. "This case has
been dragging on for more than five years and illustrates just how
broken our system for protecting federal whistleblowers has become."
Congressional leaders and President-elect Obama have pledged support
for whistleblower reform legislation prompted in part by the Chambers
case. In addition, former Congressman and incoming White House
Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel and other leaders have spoken out for Chief
Chambers and decried punishing public servants for "telling the truth".
"How the incoming Obama officials act to resolve the case of Chief
Chambers will say a lot about how transparent the new administration
will be," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "In the coming
weeks, the new administration will have to decide whether to defend
these actions taken by Bush appointees or whether Teresa Chambers
should still be Chief of the U.S. Park Police."
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.