National Park Service officials, who fired the superintendent of Sitka National Historical Park in 2010 because she refused a transfer, have been ordered to reinstate her with back pay.
The ruling, handed down by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board last week, was welcomed by the superintendent, Mary Miller.
“I am so grateful to my family, friends, colleagues and members of the community who have supported me throughout this arduous process. This decision has restored my faith in the system and I’m looking forward to getting back to work to continue building agency relations with the community,” Ms. Miller said in a prepared statement.
The 8-page ruling revolved around the Park Service's decision in 2010 to shift Superintendent Miller from the historical park in Sitka, Alaska, to a new position as Alaska Native Affairs Liaison in Anchorage, 500 miles away.
But the superintendent, who had been at the historical park for three years, said such a transfer would prove a hardship to her, that she was not qualified for the role, and that the impending removal of her from Sitka National Historical Park was '“tainted by discrimination”' based on her race, sex, and physical disability."
In response, the Park Service fired her in August 2010, found a person to serve as the liaison and another to take over the superintendency at Sitka National Historical Park.
In gathering testimony on Ms. Miller's appeal of that decision, the Merit Board heard from the Park Service how it "had a high regard for the appellant’s performance as the superintendent in Sitka. Indeed, agency witnesses testified that the agency relied upon the appellant’s strengths and accomplishments as a Superintendent as the basis for directing her reassignment to the Liaison position in Anchorage," the board noted.
Furthermore, it added in its ruling, "we find that it did not promote the efficiency of the service to direct the appellant to take the position in Anchorage against her will and to remove her from employment altogether when she declined the position. As a result of the agency’s actions, it lost an apparently valued and successful employee, and created two vacancies that the agency had to fill after her removal."
The board did not examine whether the reassignment "was tainted by discrimination," as Ms. Miller alleged, noting that she did not prove that claim during an initial hearing before an administrative judge.
The Park Service has until April 21 to reinstate Ms. Miller as superintendent of the historical park.