- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

The three-member U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board yesterday, in a 2-1 decision, upheld the termination of Teresa Chambers as chief of the U.S. Park Police, saying she violated the public trust by misusing her office to criticize the agency.

The board said Mrs. Chambers, fired in July 2004 after criticizing the agency in an interview in The Washington Post, was guilty of misconduct, lacked remorse, had a “poor potential for rehabilitation” and misused a government vehicle.

The long-awaited action frees Mrs. Chambers to take her legal challenge to federal court, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which is representing her.

“We will immediately and vigorously pursue an appeal of this extremely questionable ruling,” said Richard Condit, the group’s general counsel. “If this ruling is allowed to stand, it will be much more difficult for civil servants to report security breakdowns free from official reprisal.”

The civil service board, appointed by the president, consists of two Republicans and one Democrat.

The Republican majority voted to support Mrs. Chambers’ termination, while Democrat Barbara J. Sapin wrote a vigorous dissent.

Republicans Neil A. G. McPhie and Mary M. Rose rejected whistleblower and First Amendment defenses, devoting only one paragraph in the board’s 24-page ruling to why the removal of Mrs. Chambers was justified.

Mrs. Sapin said Mrs. Chambers’ comments were protected under the federal whistleblower law and the four remaining administrative charges were either not supported by the evidence or were actions that did not constitute an offense.

Mr. Condit said the legal issues in the case focused on whether a federal employee can be fired for telling the truth in the absence of explicit rules barring disclosure. He said the case marks the first time that a new category of “law-enforcement sensitive” information has been used as a basis for discipline.

“In the case of Teresa Chambers, the Merit Systems Protection Board has certainly not lived up to its name,” Mr. Condit said. “In reading this ruling, it is hard to believe that the majority and the dissent were even deciding the same case.”

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