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Circuit Remands U.S. Park Police Whistleblower Case

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Circuit revived the claims of the former chief of the U.S. Park Police, who said she was fired in retaliation for expressing her dissatisfaction with the government's refusal to increase the Park Police's 2003 budget.

Teresa Chambers talked openly about the budget and its implications to a reporter with The Washington Post and to a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. The Park Police is a component of the National Park Service, which acts as a sub-agency of the Department of the Interior.

Chambers' supervisor barred her from talking to the press, placed her on administrative leave and then fired her, citing six charges of misconduct. On appeal, the administrative judge upheld the plaintiff's firing and found that Chambers had not made a "protected disclosure" under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The appeals court also affirmed her removal, but remanded because the Merit Systems Protection Board applied the wrong standard when evaluating Chambers' whistleblower claim.

"In our view, the board improperly blended the concepts of gross mismanagement and risk to public safety," Judge Prost wrote.

Judge Mayer dissented in part, saying there was no need to remand to reconsider whether the plaintiff's disclosures were protected.

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