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Park Police reinstate chief previously fired

Jan. 21, 2011 - 02:03PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Teresa Chambers will get back her old job as U.S. Park Police chief on Jan. 31.
Teresa Chambers will get back her old job as U.S. Park Police chief on Jan. 31. (GNS)

Some 6 years after she was fired, Teresa Chambers will get back her old job as U.S. Park Police chief on Jan. 31, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a Friday news release.

The decision follows a Merit Systems Protection Board ruling that she was improperly dismissed in July 2004 after publicly warning that the Park Police needed more resources to do its job. Sal Lauro, the current park police chief, will become a senior advisor, Salazar said.

"Chief Lauro has led the Park Police on a positive and ambitious agenda over the last two years," Salazar said, "and I look forward to Teresa Chambers continuing to advance that agenda."

Until Friday, the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service, had been silent about the Jan. 11 MSPB ruling, which it could have appealed. In the release, Chambers said it was "a tremendous honor" to return to the Park Police.

Chambers had lost her park service job after a December 2003 interview with The Washington Post in which she warned that staff shortages were jeopardizing public safety. She was suspended almost immediately and fired in July 2004 for publicly disclosing budget deliberations, failing to follow the chain of command and four other alleged offenses.

In a convoluted legal trek that went up to a federal appeals court, Chambers said she was making protected disclosures as a whistleblower. Although the appeals court had sustained three of the charges, the three-member MSPB concluded that the evidence was too weak to justify firing Chambers. In the 52-page decision, the board also ruled that she should receive back pay with interest going back to July 2004 and is entitled to attorney fees.

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