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Posted at 4:57 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Fired Park Police chief Teresa Chambers ordered reinstated

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 6:45 p.m. ET
Teresa C. Chambers, the former chief of U.S. Park Police removed in 2003 for voicing concerns about staffing shortages, could be back on the job next month after federal officials ordered her reinstatement Tuesday, citing a lack of proper evidence.

Teresa Chambers
Teresa Chambers. (Jonathan Ernst - Post)

Chambers was suspended and later fired after telling The Washington Post in December 2003 that traffic accidents had increased along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway because two, instead of the recommended four, officers were on patrol. The police agency also lacked enough officers to protect national park land, Chambers said at the time, adding that unarmed guards protected some national monuments.

Citing weak evidence against her, the Merit Systems Protection Board ordered the Park Police Tuesday to reinstate Chambers within 20 days. She is also entitled to retroactive pay dating back to July 2004 and reimbursement for legal fees.

The decision caps almost eight years of legal efforts by Chambers, who currently serves as chief of police in Riverdale, Md. She was stunned by the decision, she said Tuesday.

"The goal from the start was to return to the job that I loved, the job I competed for and was hired for and to make sure justice prevailed, not just for me," Chambers said in an interview. "This is precedent-setting for other civil servants, other federal employees. One of the questions has been can a federal employee be fired for telling the truth, and this case will lay the groundwork for the future."

Chambers intends to resign her current position once the Interior Department formally offers back her old position, she said.

The Bush administration had removed her on the basis of six charges, two of which were later dismissed by an administrative judge. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed another charge last April and the MSPB dismissed the others Tuesday.

Her attorney, Paula Dinerstein, called the decision "a wonderful ruling, not only for Chief Chambers but for thousands who believe that honesty is part of public service."

The National Park Service, which oversees the Park Police, is reviewing the ruling and had no comment Tuesday, according to spokesman David Barna.

Salvatore Lauro has served as Park Police chief since Jan. 2009. He could not be reached Tuesday night for comment. By law would have to step down to make room for Chambers, according to Chambers's attorneys.

MSPB is an independent three-member panel that hears appeals from federal employees seeking reinstatement. Two of the board's three members, Susan Tsui Grundmann and Anne M. Wagner, were appointed by President Obama; Mary M. Rose was appointed by President George W. Bush in in 2005.

About one percent of appeals result in reinstatement, according to agency figures from 2008.

Chambers said she was puzzled and disappointed by the Obama administration's decision to continue the legal battle, having expected they would drop the case.

"But everything happens for a reason," she said. "A compromise, or the executive branch stepping in and fixing this wouldn't have had the long-reaching positive impact of a court decision, in this case several court decisions and a Merit Systems Protection Board decision. That's going to be more positive for the greater good."

Staff writer Mary Pat Flaherty contributed to this report.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 11, 2011; 4:57 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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Next: Teresa Chambers 'stunned' by reinstatement

Comments

Excellent. The firing was purely political and without justification. Being truthful had serious consequences in the 2000's.

Posted by: pjohn2 | January 11, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

SO glad to see this ruling, even though it took so many years. Chief Chambers's firing was an injustice and a disgrace to the civil service system.

Posted by: ademarsay | January 11, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see that something good has come of all this. I wondered why the Obama adm was continuing the case instead of just reinstated her, but as Teresa Chambers says, it turns out to have been a smart decision.
It's good to know that someone with her courage will be running an important dept like the National Park Service.

Posted by: NativeVirginian | January 11, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Good for her! I hope she got her service computation date backdated too, and all her forfeited TSP contributions and matching funds. This is a HUGE win for federal employees, and protection against political appointee threats. Hurrah!

Posted by: AdventurerVA | January 11, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't really matter unless they punish those who were responsible for her termination, and even then it hardly matters as they will be long gone before another wrongfully-terminated employee wins their job back.

This is 99.999% a win for management. She won't get back to Square 1 even after she gets reimbursed for her legal fees. Nothing is going to make up for the anguish of having to deal with a wrongful termination. Or even the threat of one. Which she will still be under if she takes her old job back.

The one plus for her is that she has her salary over all these years from her new job, but that's just going to add to her pre-tax income. This is going to be a disaster for her financially she's going to owe most of her back-salary in taxes.

Posted by: tokenwhitemale | January 11, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful Wonderful news.

I am so truly happy about this, and I hope that she gets back on the job, serves, and then leaves to write books, lecture, and advocate for those who are bullied and wronged in the political sphere of the federal workforce.

So happy.

Posted by: HumbleGovWorker | January 11, 2011 7:06 PM | Report abuse

all that back salary and attorneys fees--another huge waste of taxpayer millions. Just borrow it from the chinese.

Posted by: Socialistic | January 11, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Wow, justice is served. Congratulations

Posted by: slydell | January 11, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

jesus christ!.....how many years?.....what a waste of time....i remember the firing...it should not have taken all this time to correct the situation......pitiful.

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | January 11, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

It's about damn time! Now, someone should go after the idiot(s) that fired her!

Posted by: firecat20906 | January 11, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

she expected obama to drop the case? bush-lite ?

Posted by: newagent99 | January 11, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

LOL she will get like a million in back pay. What a joke, does the current chief then get fired.

Posted by: cr10 | January 11, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse


Good news!

Posted by: susansp1 | January 11, 2011 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Socialistic wrote:
"all that back salary and attorneys fees--another huge waste of taxpayer millions. Just borrow it from the chinese."

---------------
OR...you could just stop electing Presidents like G.W. Bush. Let's see, in addition to Chambers' back pay:

1. Global bank failures and economic depression (including loss of half of my investments)
2. Budget surplus to budget deficit.
3. 3/4 of a trillion dollars wasted and loss of over 5,000 American lives in a worthless Iraq War.

Posted by: JimZ1 | January 11, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't see why that's reason to celebrate. She was a lousy chief when she had the job. Anybody else remember the debacle when that nutjob on a tractor shut down a big part of DC for days? Chalk that one up to her fumbling around. And I don't really see what public good was achieved by her broadcasting to the media the reduced levels of traffic enforcement on GW parkway and other roads. It was no great loss when she got bounced.

Posted by: hangjbat | January 11, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

CONGRATULATIONS CHIEF CHAMBERS!!! THANK YOU FOR MAKING 5409 RIVERDALE(RIVERDALE VILLAGE APARTMENTS) RD.,RIVERDALE PK.,MD.-SAFE FOR THE KIDS.
PEACE.
TIM KIMBROUGH AND FAMILY

Posted by: timkimbrough7 | January 11, 2011 11:26 PM | Report abuse

What a tremendous slap in the face to the staff and current Chief of U.S. Park Police. It took years to recover from the Chambers and then Pettiford reign. Chief Lauro has restored confidence in the force and is a leader that the force is proud to serve for. The review board has no idea of what it has done with this mandatory reinstatement of Chambers and DOI is going to see a mass exodus of employees when she returns.

Posted by: wildirish581 | January 12, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm with you hangjbat. She was a lousy chief and many excellent and dedicated officers and civilians left because of her inability to lead. This will set the force back tremendously.

Posted by: wildirish581 | January 12, 2011 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I am very happy to hear this good news. If only everyone would stand up for what is right. Never give up. You are an inspiration for many, including myself.

Posted by: mjm0128 | January 12, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree with both point of views, so far expressed. She should have never been fired for speaking out and exposing the truth, but she was a lousy Chief who made a horrible staffing choice by bringing in Asst. Chief Pettiford. He ended up crippling the USPP.
The USPP has finally recovered from that debacle of leadership, with a solid Chief now (Lauro). This will be exceptionally messy. She should do the right thing and let the current Chief continue.

Posted by: hitx | January 12, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if she was a lousy chief or not. But I work for the Federal Government and I know in this big burreaucracy there is no one who does not generate conflicting assessments of their competence and worthiness in the myriad other folks working around them. Even the best seem to have enemies as well as friends. So the fact that someone says Chambers is incompetent is not a surprise. However, the court decision appears to support the contention that she was fired for trumped up charges. My question is, if she was so incompetent, why did her pursuers in 2003 not utilize the examples that these detractors have cited today to fire her? They were themselves ineffective if not dishonest.

Posted by: franciasj | January 12, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Great for Chief Chambers. A grave injustice has been righted. This incident was mishandled fron the get go. I think they should dock the past administrative guru's some of their retirement pay for their previous bone headed decision. Whatever happened to progressive steps for disicipline? In my opinion they went from A to Z without an initial reprimand.

Posted by: mjlmilton | January 12, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Great for Chief Chambers. A grave injustice has been righted. This incident was mishandled fron the get go. I think they should dock the past administrative guru's some of their retirement pay for their previous bone headed decision. Whatever happened to progressive steps for discipline? In my opinion they went from A to Z without an initial reprimand.

Posted by: mjlmilton | January 12, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

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