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7/12/2004

Firing of U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers

Almost two months ago, I went to a panel discussion announcing the unveiling of the Citizens for Sensible Safeguard's Special Interest Takeover Report. Bill Wade, of the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees, was one of the panelists. He largely focused on the fox-guarding-the-henhouse tendencies of the Bush administration, where political appointees with backgrounds hostile to government agencies are put in charge of said agencies.

The Coalition of Concerned NPS Retirees has been trying to draw attention to the Bush administration's woeful underfunding of the National Park System since its inception.

One of their projects, undertaken last November, was to survey NPS employee opinions of the management of the Park system. The survey found that:
Nearly nine out of 10 current National Park Service (NPS) employees participating in a recent survey are concerned that decisions affecting national parks are based more on politics and special-interest deals than on science and what is best for the parks, according to results of a Campaign to Protect America's Lands survey of NPS workers released today.
One of the clearest examples of politics dominating the NPS is the sad saga of Teresa Chambers, appointed Chief of Park Police in Dec. 2001. In Dec. 2003 she spoke to the Washington Post about low staffing levels. The Park Police are responsible for "icons," like the D.C. monuments and were struggling to meet new staffing requirements passed after 9/11. Just days after she spoke to the Post, she was placed on administrative leave and the NPS initiated proceedings to fire her. In a contentious battle, Chambers' good name and reputation were dragged through the mud - she got the Wilson/Plame treatment. Back in January, Tim Noah of Slate started what is now a five part series on the case, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, where he accused the NPS of "Stalinism" - it will probably be a six part series shortly.

On June 28, Chambers sued for reinstatement. Last Friday, she filed an affidavit seeking immediate reinstatement. Just hours later, the Park Service finished firing her. Saturday her termination was finalized and a gag order lifted; Sunday, she fired back:
"The American people should be afraid of this kind of silencing of professionals in any field," she said. "We should be very concerned as American citizens that people who are experts in their field either can't speak up, or, as we're seeing now in the parks service, won't speak up."
Only two weeks ago, Park Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy circulated a memo reaffirming NPS employees of their right to report "wrongdoing or mismanagement."

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has set up a webpage, www.honestchief.com, to advocate for Chief Chambers.

 

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