Uploaded: Thu, May 15, 2008, 11:25 am
Children's Theatre probe dropped, chief says
Briggs, Williams and Curtis won't face any charges, yet evidence of wrongdoing exits, according to chief
The criminal investigation of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre is over, Police Chief Lynne Johnson announced in a statement today.
Although the police have evidence of financial irregularities, there isn't proof "beyond a reasonable doubt at this time," Johnson wrote.
"It's time to move on," Johnson said.
Johnson said she didn't think her department had made any major missteps in its investigation of Director Pat Briggs, Costume Supervisor Alison Williams and Program Assistant Rich Curtis.
"We initiate the investigation without regard to the people involved. We deal with the law," Johnson said. "A lot of people in the community, because the people have been so beloved, they assumed we were targeting them. That's not the case. Nobody is above the law.
"I would hope that people would realize we get paid to conduct criminal investigations when we have reasonable cause to believe that crimes have been committed. History has shown that good people can do bad things."
A separate administrative investigation into the employees' compliance with city rules is ongoing.
View the press release
• ARCHIVE: Children's Theatre investigation
Posted by Katie Christman
a resident of Professorville
on May 16, 2008 at 1:56 pm
Just a ponder(I had written 'quick ponder; clearly not my forte), but as I understand it, the Children's Theater is not considered a 'fund-generating' branch of the city. It is run at a deficit, which is the cause of much of the ire directed toward the theater, the Friends, and the participants in this forum. The moneys generated by charging the public to attend performances and charging for classes, seminars, and the summer conservatory defray a large portion of the costs. The remainder for budgeted items is covered by the city.
Initially, the entire cost was funded by the city, except for the buildings donated by Lucy Sterne and the thousands and thousands of volunteer hours put in by parents and other citizens, including my great-grandmother. Over time, the needs (or willingness to provide services) increased, so the Friend's of the Theater organization was set up as a public/private partnership to come up with MORE MONEY, not given by the city. Money was raised for improvements, additions, and trips (all of which were theater-related and educational).
So if you look at the trend, it is more self-sufficiency and less dependency on the city dollar/tax dollar.
When I was a kid there was a constant problem with costumes piling up everywhere. Costumes wear out. Kids come in different sizes. Fashions change, which doesn't matter for Little Women or Rapunzel, but certainly does for, say, High School Musical and other newer shows. Old costumes also involved endless buttons and HOOKS! often on the back of costumes for girls, which are hell on the old quick-change. The fire marshall was always on PACT's back, saying, get these old costumes out of here, they constitute a fire hazard! But throw them out? That would be plain wrong.
Meanwhile, funding sources other than city money became more important as the programs grew and grew, due to the dedication of its staff. Outreach plays began at the elementary schools, which included any interested student old enough to participate. The Conservatory was born. Someone said, hey! Let's sell some of the old costumes off, and raise some dough. Questions were raised as to how to write the checks, and queries went in to the city. Sometimes they answered one way, sometimes another, but as one city official told me personally in 1999, "It doesn't really matter so much as long as the money is earmarked for the theater. We can't really spend it on anything else."
People began to donate their old halloween costumes and navy uniforms, out-of date tuxes and worn out ballet shoes. The sale was a hit.
Likewise, when trips were suggested, money was raised. 'Extra' performances served the purpose of a charity auction, an opportunity to allow children to travel and perform, to travel and compete, like the band or the choir. The amount needed was determined, the drive went forward, the money was collected. Rubber ducks and t-shirts were sold. Each parent paid a sum for his or her child, which was a part of the total. But additional funds were needed for scholarships, etc., and these funds were raised by the Friends.
All of these efforts allowed the theater to do more without requiring that the city pay for it all. Thousands of more hours were put in by volunteers, selling hot dogs, sorting costumes. The costume racks stopped smelling bad ( I am not exaggerating, In The Snowqueen I wore a complete fur suit that had my grandmother's name in it from 1933. Fur is not easy to wash, and it had greasepaint and baby powder all over the inner neckline. Good for one halloween, but no longer functional for four performances under the lights!). City money tended to go for staff (not a penny wasted, each did the work of three people) upgrades to the building, safety concerns, etc.
My question is, if money was raised by the theater or the Friends, for the theater, how is that owed to the city? Is there a clause that says that have to pay the city back every penny of operating expenses before spending on, say, a new light board? I don't think so. And I know that as a taxpayer if donate money to the theater, it is earmarked for the theater, and for the city to use it for any other purpose is, I believe, unlawful. If unbudgeted amounts were advanced by the city, and paid back with donated funds, how is that embezzlement, or missappropriation of any kind? If I donate money to the Junior museum for snake food, can it be used to pay for a large egg sculpture in the plaza? I don't think so. It can't be used to fix the street or provide sandbags or even buy a microphone cover for city hall. If you donate money to reseed the little league field, can the city sieze it and use it to clean up after the horses in the may fete parade? Somebody enlighten me, please (not you perpwalk, I still need to know what YOUR cause is so I can help you write a grant).
I am generally quite pro-police, my kids collect the 'baseball cards' However, I would appreciate our Police force bringing charges if they think they can prove them or dropping the whole thing completely, not resorting to libel or slander or whatever you call saying something bad about someone that you can't prove (if the paper quotes you but you SAID it, I'm not sure which that is).
We do need oversite in our town, to make sure that money goes where it is supposed to go, and doesn't get spent somewhere else.
Love to all,