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For Immediate Release: Apr 14, 2004
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

INTERIOR RE-IMPOSES GAG ORDER ON CHIEF CHAMBERS

No Interviews Without Permission of Don Murphy


Washington, DC -- The Department of Interior has ordered U.S. Park Police Chief to grant no further media interviews without official clearance, according to correspondence released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Apparently angered at recent interviews Chief Chambers has given to a variety of local and national outlets, the Department of Interior reversed previous permission for Chief Chambers to speak freely provided she did not address the merits of her pending personnel case or represent herself as a departmental spokesperson and has re-imposed the previous gag order in its entirety.

On December 2, 2003, shortly after the Washington Post published an interview with Chief Chambers, Park Service Deputy Director Don Murphy forbade Chief Chambers from granting additional interviews. On December 5, Murphy ordered Chief Chambers to surrender her badge and gun and placed her on administrative leave. After offering to forgo all charges in return for Chief Chambers agreeing to an extended gag order, Murphy proposed to terminate Chief Chambers after she rejected his offer. In the ensuing months, The Department of Interior, the parent agency of the National Park Service, has not acted on that proposed job action, leaving Chief Chambers in legal limbo.

In late February, Pete Noone of the law firm of Avery Dooley Post & Avery and lead counsel for Chief Chambers induced the Department of Interior to narrow the scope of the "no interview order," such that no gag order existed, that Chief Chambers was free to speak with the press and in public, and that the Department "hoped" she would not talk about the proposed discipline or the disciplinary process.

On Monday, April 12, 2004, Jacqueline Jackson, a Deputy Solicitor with the Department of Interior, contacted Mr. Noone to indicate that "her client" had concerns about recent media interviews that Chief Chambers had given. In response to a request for written clarification, the next day Ms. Jackson sent a letter stating that the old "no interview" order was still in effect and she attached an email sent to Chief Chambers on December 2, 2003, that read:

"You are not to grant anymore interviews without clearing them with me or the director. You may not reference the President's 05 budget under any circumstances. – Don Murphy"

"Gag orders are issued by managers who have something to hide," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization is part of Chief Chambers' defense team and who has handled several cases in which agencies have attempted to enforce gag orders. "This latest gag order is of questionable legality but unquestionably points to leaders futilely trying to exercise total information control rather than candor."

Ironically, Ms. Jackson, the Interior lawyer, admitted that Chief Chambers had not said anything objectionable in her recent interviews. Media requests for interviews with Chief Chambers are being directed to Don Murphy for clearance. His office number is (202) 208-3818 or 202-4621 or can be reached by email at don_murphy@nps.gov.

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Read the written instructions prohibiting Chief Chambers from speaking to the media