After only a week, the Palo Alto Children's Theater Legal Defense Fund has raised $12,000, co-founder Mac Clayton said Wednesday.
Fundraising is ongoing and the money will be used to pay for attorneys for Director Pat Briggs, Costume Supervisor Alison Williams and Production Assistant Rich Curtis, the three remaining staff members who are on paid administrative leave due to an investigation of "financial crimes."
"The outpouring of support has been touching and wonderful," Clayton said in a prepared statement. Donors range from young theater participants contributing their allowances to community members who heard about the theater staff's plight, Clayton said.
In announcing the fund's creation Feb. 27, Clayton said the staff members need "good lawyers, and good lawyers cost a lot of money."
The three fund founders -- Clayton, Suzie Stewart and Beth Broderson -- have called for the reinstatement of Briggs, Williams and Curtis. Assistant Director Michael Litfin, who was also placed on leave Jan. 24, died a week later -- he had been under treatment for cancer.
Information recently provided by former theater supervisor Leon Kaplan adds a "fresh perspective," the three fund founders wrote. (See the initial report in the Weekly, Feb. 29.)
Kaplan said he was questioned by investigators in November about costume sales, an early 1990s theater-rebuilding project and parent-funded trips to take young actors to see performances in Ashland, Ore., or Southern California.
"It now seems likely that the police investigation has been based more on misunderstanding than criminal conduct. Given Pat's, Alison's and Rich's many years of service to our community and our children, we urge the city to give them the benefit of the doubt."
The employees could be restricted to non-administrative roles until the investigation is completed, they wrote.
"This would be a humane and sensible step that could go a long way toward healing the wounds in the community and restoring the health and vitality of this precious community asset," Clayton, Stewart and Broderson wrote.
Additional information on the fund is available at www.childrenstheaterdefensefund.com.