Teresa C. Chambers, fired as chief of the U.S. Park Police after she pleaded publicly for more money and personnel, has lost her latest bid for reinstatement.
An administrative judge has determined that Chambers was not a whistle-blower, as she has claimed, but a problem employee with a pattern of misconduct and defiance of her supervisors.
The ruling was a victory for the Interior Department, which drew criticism from some lawmakers for placing Chambers on administrative leave in December and then firing her in July. Chambers, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, contended that she was forced out because she raised public safety concerns.
Judge Elizabeth B. Bogle of the U.S. Merit Systems Protections Board found that Chambers had a history of not following policies, procedures or supervisors' orders and that her actions were "inconsistent with the degree of trust required for her position."
The Interior Department issued a statement saying it welcomed the ruling. The judge's opinion was released Wednesday and made public yesterday.
Chambers vowed to appeal, saying the judge had either overlooked or misunderstood key evidence. After nearly a year of battling her former bosses, Chambers said she will keep fighting because the case is about more than her career. "For the greater good, it's absolutely worth it," she said.
The Interior Department placed Chambers on administrative leave after she told The Washington Post that new responsibilities were straining the resources of the Park Police and endangering safety.
But Bogle's 56-page opinion frames the flare-up over the public comments as merely the culmination of a long-running power struggle between Chambers and her boss, Donald Murphy, the National Park Service's deputy director.
Appointed in February 2002, Chambers, a former Prince George's County police commander who went on to run the police force in Durham, N.C., clashed often with Murphy.
Both of them testified during hearings last month in Alexandria before Bogle. The Merit Systems Protections Board hears appeals by federal employees.
The opinion is clear about who Bogle believes was more credible. She repeatedly took issue with Chambers's version of events, characterizing at least one of the ex-chief's assertions as "disingenuous" and another as "inconsistent" with earlier statements.
Ultimately, Bogle, who sits at the board's regional office in Alexandria, sustained four of the six charges brought by the National Park Service, which oversees the U.S. Park Police.
Based in the District, the Park Police is responsible for patrolling the Mall and other national park sites in the region, as well as area parkways and a handful of sites in New York and San Francisco.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the 620-member force has been called on to step up its security responsibilities around the capital's monuments. But Chambers has said the new obligations have come at the expense of critical law enforcement responsibilities.
When she spoke to The Post late last year, she apparently hoped to highlight the challenges she faced.
She spoke of the diminished Park Police presence on area parkways and pointed to what she said was a corresponding increase in accidents.
The judge found that the chief's disclosures about police staffing levels and the agency's budget proposals and deliberations were improper. Instead of being a whistle-blower, the judge said, Chambers was simply trying to influence the budget process, and the information she provided could be used by lawbreakers.
Chambers flouted a supervisor's instructions by repeatedly failing to transfer a senior aide to a post elsewhere in the National Park Service, the judge wrote. The chief also circumvented the chain of command when she spoke to the Interior Department's second highest-ranking official, Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, in a successful effort to kill the transfer, Bogle said.
Interior spokesman Dan DuBray issued a statement saying officials will "continue to work through this important personnel process." Chambers can ask the Merit Systems Protections Board or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to review the matter.