News

Williams feted at theater, may still face discipline

Curtis' termination recommendation stems from memorial service incident

Costume Supervisor Alison Williams celebrated her return, after four months, to the Palo Alto Children's Theatre with a semi-surprise party Wednesday afternoon.

Cake and strawberries, balloons, stickers and colorful pro-employee posters filled the theater lobby and theater supporters, including Williams, were beaming. The open gaiety marked a sharp shift, perhaps only temporary, in the timbre of the ongoing Children's Theatre saga, which has dominated by secrecy, suspicion and sadness.

Williams returned to work Tuesday for the first time since Jan. 24, when she and fellow employees Pat Briggs, Michael Litfin and Richard Curtis were placed on paid administrative leave pending a criminal "financial crimes" investigation.

"We're very glad you're back. It was too long," Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre President Paula Collins said.

"It's wonderful to be back," Williams responded as the 25-or-so supporters raised glasses of sparkling cider in her honor. Before January, Williams spent much of her time in the theater's vast underground costume shop, well-known and loved within the theater community, but behind the scenes of public life.

In January, she became known as a criminal suspect, albeit in a convoluted and questionable case.

On Wednesday, Williams -- who has dark glasses, shoulder-length blondish hair, a trace of an accent and was carrying a small, white flower -- said she is focused on the present, being happy to return to work.

Williams co-workers Briggs and Curtis have been recommended for termination, but Williams hasn't been told what, if any, discipline she faces, former union leader Phil Plymale said Wednesday.

The administrative investigation into Williams' behavior, which is examining her compliance with the city's rules and regulations, is still ongoing, Plymale said.

On Tuesday, Williams met with Human Resources Director Russ Carlsen, Plymale said. Williams had to sign a statement that she would not talk about the case with any city employees and would not work any overtime without the permission of Community Services Director Richard James, Plymale said.

The overtime restriction is unusual and unrelated, Plymale said. Most theater employees work overtime when a show is being produced, yet now Williams won't be able to, he said.

Plymale said he can also confirm the city recommended terminating Curtis, a theater program assistant, because he accessed a theater computer during the February memorial service for Litfin, who died one week into the open criminal investigation while undergoing treatment for stomach cancer.

Plymale said Curtis had printed out a report that documented the theater's finances to show he hadn't been taking money.

Curtis also faces a second "insubordination" charge from the city. During one interview with the outside administrative investigator, Curtis was advised not to answer a question by Adolfo Reidel, the worksite organizer with the Service Employees International Union Local 521.

Plymale said the union plans to fight both charges.

Curtis has a June 5 hearing to present his defense, Plymale has said.

Theater Director Briggs is also fighting her recommended termination and will also meet with personnel leaders to present a defense.

Related material:

Council may investigate theater investigations

What went wrong? DA cites gaps in theater case

ARCHIVE: Children's Theatre investigation stories

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Irate Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on May 22, 2008 at 7:46 am

I can't believe the City would "persecute" Richard Curtis for trying to defend himself after the police had publicly implicated him in the "embezzlement" probe.. How fair is it not to allow people to have access to a document that can exonerate them?? Are we living in a 3rd world dictatorship where people have no rights? Is even Palo Alto tainted by Guantanamo??? What this city is doing gets worse and worse.. Where is common sense and decency, to say nothing about protecting rights and the presumption of innocence????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bye Bye Curtis
a resident of Stanford
on May 22, 2008 at 7:56 am

Curtis and the other staff were given strict instructions regarding their being allowed to be at the service for Litfin. Curtis disobeyed these instructions.
It would have been much easier for him to inform the police/investigators about said document and they would have gotten it. In fact, it would have been better that way--Curtis accessing it himself may raise the question that the document was tampered with.

Clearly some people in this community are of the mindset that the PACT and their staff are not governed by rules and regulations. That the PACT and staff, because they are a "beloved city institution" and have a vocal cheerleading section (Friends of PACT) they acn do whatever they please. Proper handling of money, following city rules etc do not apply to the PACT and their staff--they are special.

Time to get that notion out of everyone's mind.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by STOP
a resident of Community Center
on May 22, 2008 at 2:13 pm

If you don't know what you are talking about and you are just presuming people are guilty or criminal STOP, Dont believe the lies the police have reported.
Obviously the Criminal inverstigation has beed a farse, Even the City Counicl is now proposing to "Investigate the Investigation" So If I minght say STOP, STOP saying things that you obviously don't know anything about.
Give these people the same respect you want, if you were unjustly accused.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not a theater parent
a resident of Stanford
on May 22, 2008 at 9:55 pm

It is admirable that Gary Baum, the city attorney, showed so much concern for the privacy rights of Richard Curtis at the City Council discussion this past Monday. But where was he when the chief of police repeatedly trashed the privacy rights of the theater staff in this and other newspapers? In the light of the basis for recommending termination for Curtis, it also seems that Baum and the rest of the city staff could have shown more concern for Curtis's rights under the 5th and 6th amendments to the US Constitution. The last I knew these applied even in Palo Alto. I should be forgiven for believing that Baum's performance was more about preventing the disclosure of information than about the protection of an individual's rights.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BeetleNut
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 22, 2008 at 10:58 pm


Guilty as sin!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 22, 2008 at 11:27 pm

so, if Rich Curtis has gained incontrovertible proof that he is innocent, you would still
have him fired because he wasn't obedient and compliant during an investigation in which the investigators now require investigation.

Is that right Beetlenut?

Hey, I have an even better way to find out if Curtis is as guilty as sin!!

Why don't we just throw him into a pond and see if he floats?







 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rive Gauche
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2008 at 8:24 am

Look at all the smiles, fun and how easy it is to live off other people taxes.

Elitist public trough wallowers.

Oink





 +   Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 9:00 am

It's not a matter of guilt or innocence folks .Curtis didn't abide by the conditions to attend the Liftin memorial and therefore violated the protection of the investigation both criminal and administrative. No, you can't avail yourself of any document from a source that is protected. As Bye Bye Briggs said what Curtis did raises the question that the document could be a fabrication . Why not have had his lawyer ask for the document ?Unlike paper, any information that's in a computer can't be deleted.
It really is difficult to understand the anarchist view expressed on this forum that city staff at PACT can do as they please. I don't know whether Curtis had anything to do with Briggs handling the moneys but he was properly terminated for what getting the document if that's what he did. Curtis behavior also raises the question : is this the way PACT operated? with an attitude " I do whatever I want when I want it and nobody can tell me otherwise"? Is that the kind of municipal employees
we want?
PACT doesn't belong to the Briggs Management- it belongs to the city of Palo Alto. the Employees have to abide by rules and follow orders.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jenn
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 9:22 am

In small part, the theatre belongs to me as I help make up the City of Palo Alto.
Richard Curtis needs to judged after all the evidence is in, which would include his testimony.
For Narnia to judge Curtis without full knowledge is neither fair nor prudent.
On one hand, Narnia questions the city council when she doesn't feel their interpretation of procedure benefits her cause and on the other hand, she staunchly defends their methods as a matter of protocol when they do.
Enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2008 at 10:45 am

Jenn, Many others do the same as she. It is next to impossible to inform the Public here about issuse that have and are going on in this city.
The Employee's have no voice. When the voice is heared from a City employee it is discredited with out proof or an investugation.

Or many times a SPECIAL interest Employee speaks for many or most of the Employee's to distract the Public.

An ALARM has been sounding in this City for many,many years with most people pretending they here nothing. Or that it is a FALSE alarm.
So you get what we have here today... I do not like it any better than you do. But it seems that most people really do not want to know the truth. They think what they speak is the truth, even when the know very little of what is really happening..
Justice is what they think is right. The truth something to stay away from. It just gets in the way of peoples own plans..


 +   Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 11:51 am

Municipal employees have union protections, steady employment and many perks. That's how it is. Richard Curtis I think will be heard. Unhappily, we cannot get into Curtis' mind and check that what they say is not clouded by an interpretative desire. So, facts are better.

As reported "Curtis also faces a second "insubordination" charge from the city. During one interview with the outside administrative investigator, Curtis was advised not to answer a question by Adolfo Reidel, the worksite organizer with the Service Employees International Union Local 521."

The city terminated him properly. He can try to overturn it and if he and his union can show that his termination violated some statue or union agreement (which is not to say the city was wrong or right) then he can be reinstated . But the city still acted properly.
There are indeed protocols to be followed. I wish to be very clear: as a taxpayer and resident I abhor anarchism anywhere including in those whose salary I help to pay.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Are we Americans not all products of a form of noble anarchy?

Is anarchy not necessary at times to overthrow tyranny?

Did King George III not label the Founding Fathers as anarchists?

Narnia, is your line on this issue absolute, or is there something
imaginable that would need to happen in order for you to rescind
your tenet?






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