Washington, DC —Teresa Chambers today filed suit in federal district court
on the grounds that the Department of Interior illegally destroyed documents showing
charges used as the basis to remove her as Chief of the U.S. Park Police last
year were trumped up, according to the complaint released today by Public Employees
for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Chambers is suing to finally force the
release of exculpatory documents or, if they are not produced, to obtain damages
to compensate for their illegal destruction.
The key document is a performance evaluation of Chambers prepared by Deputy
Park Service Director Donald Murphy, who later charged Chambers with misconduct
relating to breaches of chain-of-command and other performance-related issues.
According to Murphy’s sworn testimony in depositions taken prior to Chambers’
first hearing seeking reinstatement, his evaluation covered the periods during
which her supposed misconduct occurred but his evaluation did not mention the
issues or incidents that were later used as a partial basis for her firing last
“For Deputy Park Service Director Don Murphy the question is which time
was he telling the truth – when he said he prepared an evaluation or when
he said he has no record of the evaluation,” stated PEER General Counsel
Richard Condit, who filed the suit on Chambers’ behalf. “If Murphy’s
evaluation of Chief Chambers supported their charges, why have they been hiding
The Chambers suit is filed under the Privacy Act which entitles individuals
to see records about them maintained by federal agencies, particularly records
created as part of a federal employee’s personnel file. The Privacy Act
provides for monetary damages. Chambers is suing the Interior Department because
it is the parent agency of the National Park Service.
At the same time in a different forum, Teresa Chambers is also seeking reinstatement.
Her appeal is now before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. Two of the
six administrative charges that the Interior Department had leveled against
Chief Chambers were thrown out at the trial level. If produced, Murphy’s
evaluation could knock out two of the remaining four charges. The remaining
two charges involve an interview Chief Chambers gave to The Washington Post,
and those charges will also be subject to First Amendment and other separate
federal court challenges if they are upheld at this stage.
“Little by little, the bogus charges leveled against Chief Chambers are
dropping away,” Condit added, noting that Chief Chambers was stripped
of her badge, credentials and side arm and marched out of Interior headquarters
under armed escort on December 5, 2003. “The wheels of justice turn slowly,
but they are turning.”