The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337

Teresa Chambers Finally Testifies Before Congress

Long Ordeal of 'Honest Chief' Underscores Need to Reform Whistleblower Laws


Teresa Chambers, the U.S. Park Police Chief removed by the Bush
administration for speaking out about security gaps on the Capitol's
monuments, parks and parkways, today speaks before Congress. Her case
frames the question of whether honesty is a firing offense in federal
service, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER) which posted her testimony.

Chief Chambers, now the Chief of Police for the Town of Riverdale
Park, Maryland, makes her very first congressional appearance about her
case before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The
committee is considering whistleblower reform legislation that has Rep.
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) as its lead author. This hearing will also help
determine if the Obama administration will support whistleblower
reforms opposed by the Bush administration.

The Chambers
case has been a more than five-year legal odyssey following her
suspension and eventual removal for an interview she gave to The
Washington Post in which she confirmed information provided by the
police union that added post-9/11 patrols on the National Mall were
stripping other posts of needed officers. In her testimony, Chief
Chambers stated "I am Exhibit A in the case for reform" and urged
changes that ensure -

  • Fast and fair handling of cases, including jury trials for
    cases not resolved early. "If I had the opportunity to take my case to
    a jury of my peers, I would not be here before you today," she observed;
  • Clear
    rules without hyper-technical exceptions, so that agencies cannot
    concoct after-the-fact reasons for taking punitive action against
    unwelcome candor; and
  • Attention to fixing the underlying problems which whistleblowers risked their careers to raise.

"In my case, I told Congress and top agency officials and ultimately
confirmed to the media that the United States Park Police was
dangerously understaffed," Chambers testified. "It is still
understaffed, even more so today...Officers are not getting the support
they need to do a demanding but vital job; and, because of this, both
they and the public remain in danger."

Chambers' case is now back before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Federal Circuit which ruled in 2008 that the Merit Systems Protection
Board (MSPB) had improperly upheld her removal, holding that Chief
Chambers was removed "in reprisal for making a protected disclosure".
On remand, the two remaining holdover Republican members of the MSPB
again sustained her removal, setting up the current appeal.

"Besides legislative changes, the Obama administration must decide if
they are going to continue defending the personnel purges of the Bush
era - and Teresa Chambers is at the top of that list," said PEER
Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization provides legal
representation for Chief Chambers. "It is time to bring the political
exiles home."

Read the Chambers testimony

See the whistleblower hearing witness line-up

Trace the Chambers case

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.