"We've been dragged into the mess although we have done nothing wrong," President Paula Collins of the Friends of the Children's Theatre group told the City Council Monday night.
She asked that the group's name be officially cleared in an ongoing police investigation of the theater. Her appearance marks the third week supporters of the theater have addressed the council.
"This is a dangerous situation," Collins told the council. "Our name needs to be cleared so we can help."
Former Mayor Vic Ojakian told the council that he was appointed to the board of the Friends organization Saturday.
"I thought it was my civic duty," Ojakian said. "My concern is that the theater continue on for the next 75 years or longer."
The organization's treasurer, Justine Franklin, asked the city to allow Pat Briggs, Alison Williams and Richard Curtis -- the three staff members still on administrative leave due to the "financial crimes" investigation -- to return to work.
"The future of the theater is far from secure," Franklin said. "If the city is truly committed to a strong Children's Theatre, why not let Pat (Briggs) return to carry out the planning?"
The current staff is working hard, but it would be hard for anyone to prepare for the summer season that doesn't have intimate knowledge of operations, Franklin said. She also suggested allowing Williams and Curtis to return to the theater in some capacity.
The fourth employee, Assistant Director Michael Litfin, died Feb. 1 -- he had been undergoing treatment for stomach cancer.
Several other speakers expressed general support for the theater and urged the city to run the investigation fairly, with consideration for the community's well-being.
In accordance with city and state laws, council members cannot respond to public comments at the beginning of a council meeting. But four hours later, after other council business, Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto asked for the public to be patient and allow the investigation to proceed.
"We don't want to (pit) the credibility of the police versus the credibility of the theater," Kishimoto said. "We all do support the speedy resolution of the investigation."