“Honest Chief” Chambers wins appeal against Dept. of Interior

Privacy Act Violation for Bush Officials Destroying Favorable Personnel Evaluation

Washington, DC – In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today upheld the claim of former U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers that records exonerating her may have been illegally destroyed by Bush administration officials. The ruling also sets a precedent for using the Privacy Act to redress improper shredding of personnel files and other records, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The case involves the disappearance of a favorable performance evaluation for Chief Chambers prepared by then-Deputy Park Service Director Donald Murphy covering the same period when Murphy later alleged Chambers had ignored the chain-of-command – allegations utterly absent from Murphy’s appraisal, according to sworn testimony. Chambers is seeking restoration as Chief of the U.S. Park Police following her dismissal in 2004 after an interview she gave to The Washington Post concerning staff shortages. Her dismissal was based in part on charges that would be impeached by a glowing performance evaluation.

In 2005, Chambers filed a lawsuit under the Privacy Act on the grounds that this key exculpatory evidence had been intentionally and wrongfully destroyed. In 2008, the federal district court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the government only had an obligation to undertake a diligent search for the document. Chambers appealed, arguing, among other things, that a diligent search was no remedy when the government had already improperly destroyed the document that was the object of the search.

“This is an important ruling not only for Teresa Chambers but for all citizens who rely upon the government to safeguard records about them,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein who argued the appeal. “The federal government cannot shred incriminating documents with impunity.”

The ruling remands the case back for a trial on whether Interior in fact intentionally destroyed the evaluation. In the meantime, Chambers’ direct challenge to her dismissal is before another federal appellate court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That latter panel has already ruled once for Ms. Chambers only to have two holdover Republican appointees on the Merits Systems Protection Board again reject her challenge. Her appeal on the underlying action will be argued this fall.

A definitive ruling on the missing performance evaluation would undermine Interior’s contention that the dismissal of Chief Chambers was justified on the merits.

“The long legal saga of Chief Chambers boils down to one question – May a public servant be fired for telling the truth, especially a truth vital to public safety?” Dinerstein added. “We also wonder how long the Obama administration will want to keep on defending the multiple acts of misconduct by their predecessors in this case.”


4 Responses

  1. spirithorsebr Says:
    July 12, 2009 at 7:47 pm
    The Cloud Foundation reports documents obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) via the Freedom of Information Act by a Phoenix-based non-profit, The Conquistador Program, reveal shocking and detailed plans to destroy healthy wild horses in government holding and in the wild on public lands.

    BLM employees and a USDA veterinarian held weekly “Implementation Team” meetings beginning in July 2008 in which they discussed and developed strategies to rid BLM of thousands of mustangs. In October they completed a 68-page document titled “Alternative Management Options.” Tactics included in this document are reminiscent of those used to wipe out Native Americans in the 1800s.

    The BLM team created scenarios for killing mustangs using barbiturates, gunshots, or captive bolts. Bodies would be disposed of through rendering, burial or incineration. They discussed killing 1200-2000 wild horses per year. Minutes from the Implementation Meeting state that “increased support from public relations and management staff would also be needed to insulate those doing the actual work from the public, media and Congressional scrutiny/criticism.”

    “These meetings and the Draft Plan reveal what amounts to ‘the final solution’ for the American mustang,” states Ginger Kathrens, filmmaker and Director of The Cloud Foundation.

    Division Chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program, Don Glenn told The Cloud Foundation that “no decision has been made to move forward on a large scale with this plan, yet.”

    Meeting minutes speak for themselves: “Security at facilities and at gathers would need to be increased to combat eco-terrorism. Having the people that are willing to put down healthy horses at gather sites could be a problem.”

    During meetings Team Members formulated ways to circumvent laws, asking “[h]ow many could be euthanized during a gather without having NEPA?” and discussing ways to avoid the federal carcass disposal law. Conversations included how many wild horses could be rendered at a Reno plant or “disposed of in pits”.

    Kathrens has spent 15 years documenting wild mustangs, chronicling the life of the wild stallion, Cloud, for PBS. “Even Cloud and his little herd in Montana are in serious danger if BLM implements these options,” she continues. “A massive round up is planned for this herd beginning August 30, 2009.”

    The BLM will not guarantee that Cloud will remain free.

    More information, BLM documents and photos available.

    The Cloud Foundation, Inc.
    107 South 7th St.
    Colorado Springs, CO 80905
    Email Contact

  2. Please write letters to the editor, ask that your favorite radio and TV hosts cover this story and last but not least, please tell your friends and family about wild horses and ask them to join the Cloud Foundation in helping to protect and preserve wild horses on our public lands.

  3. STAND YOUR GROUND with Ginger Kathrens of the Cloud Foundation and Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.,
    Lawmakers and Citizens Come to the Rescue of Wild Horses
    Lawmakers introduced legislation following the Bureau of Land Management’s controversial announcement last year that it is considering killing large numbers of wild horses taken from the range.

  4. From the treatment of the Honest Chief by the NPS to the debacle of the treatment of wild horses by BLM, the Interior Dept shows what a corrupt leadership it has. Maybe the US gov should close it down and start a new agency, b/c this one doesn’t seem to function. I am not kidding.

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