In 2003, Teresa Chambers was Chief of the U.S. Park Police. She spoke to a Washington Post reporter and expressed her concerns about the lack of resources to protect U.S. parks. Her supervisors were upset and ordered her not to speak to the media without pre-clearance for her remarks. They placed her on administrative leave and then fired her. They cited her remarks and accused her of failing to “follow the chain of command.”
Yesterday, the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) issued an order requiring the National Park Service to reinstate Chief Chambers. The order grants her back-pay and attorney fees. Congratulations to Chief Chambers and her attorney, Paula Dinerstein of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
This victory comes after prior MSPB decisions that upheld the discharge, and two trips to the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Chambers v. Department of the Interior, 515 F.3d 1362, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (Chambers I), and Chambers v. Department of the Interior, 602 F.3d 1370, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (Chambers II). The Board considered how some of the charges against Chief Chambers actually constituted protected whistleblowing activity. It also considered the “weakness of the charges,” timing, and the “strong motives to retaliate” in concluding that Chief Chambers would not have been fired in the absence of her protected activity.
“This is a wonderful ruling, not only for Chief Chambers but for thousands who believe that honesty is part of public service,” stated Paula Dinerstein in a PEER press release. “The wheels of justice turn slowly but eventually they do turn.”