U.S. Park Police Chief Chambers is reinstated
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Teresa Chambers is back in her office.
Ultimately, she overcame an unworthy effort to boot her from her job as chief of the U.S. Park Police. She was reinstated Monday, bringing to an end a long, high-profile battle in which a whistleblower scored an uncommon victory over Uncle Sam.
Victories, however, are no longer as rare as they once were. The reason: The Merit Systems Protection Board, now with two Obama administration appointees, is decidedly more employee-friendly than it was two years ago.
Chambers's case illustrates the point.
It's been more than eight years since she was suspended, then fired, basically for her comments in a Washington Post article. She had the unfailing backing of Jeff Chambers, her husband of 25 years, who created a Web site in her support, free legal representation by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and good publicity. Not many whistleblowers have so many weapons.
Yet she wasn't allowed to wear the Park Police uniform for many years largely because the protection board twice failed to protect her. It was September 2006 when the board first ruled against her. A federal court then decided in her favor and sent the case back to MSPB, which went against her again in January 2009.
But by then, change that Chambers eventually could believe in was beginning to take hold in Washington. She appealed the MSPB decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which threw out some extraneous charges.
Again the case went back to MSPB, where it was greeted by new faces. President Obama's appointees dominate the three-member board. It vindicated Chambers in January and ordered the Interior Department to give her her job back.
"I would not be reinstated if it were not for the two newest members that were appointed by this administration," Chambers said. "In my mind there is no doubt about that. This was our third time before the board."
The new members include the chairman, Susan Tsui Grundmann, and Anne M. Wagner. Lawyers, both have worked for federal labor unions. The other member, Mary M. Rose, has a long history of federal personnel positions under Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. She also was a visiting fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, where she worked with Bush's transition team.
The current board went back and examined evidence dating to January 2004, a month after her suspension, Chambers said. "That evidence has been there from the start, and we couldn't get either the administrative judge or the previous boards to look at it. This made all the difference in the world."
This time, the board ruled unanimously in her favor. This isn't the only case that illustrates that it's a new day at the MSPB.