Washington, DC -- Less than a week before proposing termination of U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers, the Park Service offered to forego pursuing any disciplinary action and fully restore her as Chief if she would agree to allow Deputy Director Don Murphy to screen all future media and congressional contacts, according to a document released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The offer, extended by Interior Associate Solicitor Hugo Tuefel and reaffirmed by Murphy himself, was made to Chief Chambers and her lawyer, Peter Noone of the Belmont, Massachusetts firm of Avery, Dooley, Post, & Avery, on December 12, 2003 in a meeting held at the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters in Reston, Virginia. In return for not pressing a list of alleged violations, the officials asked that Chief Chambers agree to have no media contact or communication with Congress without prior approval as to the contact and content of these communications – a requirement that amounted to continuation of the "gag" order Murphy had already imposed on Chambers.
Chief Chambers rejected the offer, concerned that continued micromanagement and interference from Murphy would have rendered her and the United States Park Police ineffective. Although this offer was extended with a request for confidentiality, last week Park Service officials breached that confidentiality when they revealed information about the settlement negotiations to members of Congress.
"This offer demonstrates that the National Park Service never believed in the merit of the accusations against Chief Chambers and this whole affair is just a cynical power play by Don Murphy," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization is part of the Chambers defense team. "One day Don Murphy says these allegations are so serious that termination is the only recourse while he was really saying that all would be forgiven if Teresa Chambers would agree to kiss his ring."
On December 2, Chief Chambers had filed a complaint against Murphy for harassment. Hours later Murphy ordered her to cease interviews of any kind. Three days later she was ordered by Murphy to surrender her badge, sidearm, and identification to armed Special Agents of the National Park Service who then, at Murphy's direction, publicly escorted her from the building. On December 18, the National Park Service formally proposed to terminate Chief Chambers on the same charges they had been willing to drop just one week prior. Since then, the Park Service has rebuffed further attempts to settle the matter.
"The Park Service is being run like a school playground -- without any adult supervision," commented Ruch. "Don Murphy is a managerial bully who cannot abide independent thought within the ranks."