Two years ago Teresa Chambers was suspended from her job as chief of the U.S. Park Police for doing what the Bush administration considers unthinkable: she gave an interview to the Washington Post that cast a bad light on the administration. Specifically, she talked about the impacts a shortage of officers would have on patrolling parks and parkways around Washington, D.C.
Well, Ms. Chambers is marking that two-year anniversary by suing the National Park Service for $2.2 million.
Free speech is highly valued in this country. It's part of the U.S. Constitution. On its current course, Ms. Chambers' legal battle aims to uphold that right and ensure that political appointees aren't exempt from honoring that right.
The lawsuit revolves around what Ms. Chambers says are attempts by the Park Service to destroy documents that would exonerate her.
"I want and fully expect to be restored as Chief of the United States Park Police," she says. "As the second anniversary of these events loomed, I was forced to file a compensation claim or waive that option forever."
The chief's legal team is being aggressive. It already has filed a lawsuit under the Privacy Act to force the Park Service to produce what the lawyers say is a positive performance evaluation that covered the period of time during which Ms. Chambers later was charged with substandard performance and conduct. Now Ms. Chambers' lawyers have filed for $2.2 million under the Federal Tort Claims Act, arguing that she is entitled to $1.4 million in compensatory damages and another $750,000 for damaged reputation and emotional distress.
"The case of Teresa Chambers will determine whether federal civil servants can be fired by political appointees simply for telling the truth," says Richard Condit, general counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which brought the lawsuits on her behalf.