Washington, DC -- The U.S. Department of Interior is taking steps to remove Park Police Chief Chambers from telephone directories even though no "official" action has been taken against her, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). While no decision has been made on her status, top Park Service officials are taking other steps that assume she will not return to her post.
Today marks the end of the second month that Chief Chambers has been on paid administrative leave under orders "not to perform official business" or give interviews to members of the media or Congress. Since January 9, 2004, the Department of Interior, the parent agency for the Park Service, has been considering her response to accusations leveled against her by Deputy Parks Director Donald Murphy. The Interior Department, however, is under no deadline to render a decision.
Even as Park Service Director Fran Mainella is assuring members of Congress "that there has been no disciplinary action taken against the Chief," David Barna, Chief of Park Service Communications on January 5, 2004, released amended phone directories omitting Chief Chambers and naming her assistant Ben Holmes as "Acting Chief." At the same time, Chief Chambers has been excluded from Park Police budget, staffing and operations briefing and decisions.
On December 5, 2003, Chief Chambers was ordered to surrender her badge, gun and law enforcement ID. The chief was then escorted into Park Police Headquarters, in front of a gathering of her staff, before she was marched out of Interior under armed guard. Since that time, Chief Chambers has received full pay but is under orders "not to perform official business."
"Chief Chambers is being treated worse than an accused criminal, who at least has the right to bail and a timely disposition of charges," commented PEER Executive director Jeff Ruch whose organization revealed that Deputy Director Murphy had offered to restore Chief Chambers if she would agree to sign a permanent "gag" order giving Murphy control of "contact and content" of her future communications with the media and Congress. "Chief Chambers is under indefinite house arrest for the sin of being honest and professional where neither honesty or professionalism is valued."
Tomorrow, her supporters will again picket the Department of Interior headquarters, passing out leaflets asking that Chief Chambers be reinstated. In the past 60 days, approximately 5,000 individuals from across the country have written supportive emails to and on behalf of Chief Chambers and a number of law enforcement and public interest organizations have registered their support. Additionally, the website honestchief.com, which presents the facts behind Chief Chambers' case, has been inundated with visitors (more than 25,000) since its inauguration five weeks ago.