Washington, DC — Deputy Director Donald Murphy, the person behind the controversial termination of U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers in 2004, has announced his resignation from the National Park Service effective the end of May, according to an internal announcement released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Murphy’s departure means that all of the officials involved in removing Chief Chambers have departed public service or have been transferred.
It was Murphy who filed administrative charges against U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers for admitting staffing shortages in a November 2002 interview with The Washington Post. Last June, Murphy had been downgraded from the principal deputy director, a position he described as “the Chief Operations Officer” for the Park Service to a new position of Deputy for Support Services with almost none of his previous management responsibilities. Since that functional demotion, Murphy has been largely absent from agency decision-making. Murphy’s new job will be as a vice chancellor for the University of California at Merced campus.
“It is now time to restore Teresa Chambers as Chief of the U.S. Park Police,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is spearheading Chambers’ ongoing legal challenge to her termination. “The new leadership at the Department of Interior has no reason to continue defending the trumped-up vendetta against Chief Chambers waged by people who are no longer in her chain-of-command.”
In addition to the departures of Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Murphy—
- Deputy Interior Secretary J. Stephen Griles has returned to lobbying. Griles, who was a pivotal witness in the Chambers case and is central to one of the four remaining administrative charges, now is enmeshed in the spreading Jack Abramoff scandal;
- Deputy Assistant Secretary Paul Hoffman, the former Dick Cheney aide who was the official that formally decided to fire Chief Chambers, has been transferred from his position overseeing the Park Service to an administrative wing in charge of preparing obscure reports for Congress; and
- Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson, who intervened to make his deputy Hoffman the deciding official, has returned to California to teach at a law school.
The only remaining official, Park Service Director Fran Mainella, who was bypassed by Manson, has testified that she never would have removed Chief Chambers, the first female chief of the U.S. Park Police and would take her back if given the option.
Chambers’ bid for reinstatement is awaiting a decision from the federal civil service court, called the Merit Systems Protection Board, for more than a year. Chambers was dismissed on July 9, 2004, following more than seven months of administrative leave, while Bush Administration officials decided her fate. Two of the six administrative charges lodged against Chambers have been thrown out. The remaining counts are under challenge for lacking legal and factual basis as well as violating free speech and whistleblower protections.
In addition, Murphy is the subject of a federal court action brought by Chambers to produce copies of favorable performance reviews of her by Murphy that contradicted the underpinnings of two of the four remaining administrative charges against her.
“Teresa Chambers is a career law enforcement professional with a distinguished record of achievement who is widely respected for her strong leadership abilities,” added Ruch. “The rap against Chief Chambers was that she is honest, but we need honesty in federal service now more than ever.”