The final report on the police investigation of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre used "language intended to mislead and inflame," Jon Parsons, attorney for theater Director Pat Briggs, has said in a lengthy e-mail to the city attorney.
As city administrators debate whether to terminate Briggs, who is on paid administrative leave, Parsons released a harsh, four-page critique of the criminal investigation and its May 15 final report.
"Although the Police Department spent much busywork and overtime on the project, there was never an actual investigation of the important questions," he said in the e-mail to City Attorney Gary Baum, dated June 13.
Parsons framed his comments and allegations as issues that should be included in the pending review of the investigation by independent police auditor Michael Gennaco.
Among other shortcomings of the investigation, Parsons said Sgt. Michael Yore, the primary investigator, failed to interview numerous key witnesses — including Program Assistant Richard Curtis, Costume Supervisor Alison Williams and board members of the Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre.
Parsons alleged Yore jumped to several false conclusions. Yore states that Briggs didn't keep records, although no one looked through the many boxes seized early this year, which contained receipts, Parsons said.
Yore's report failed to prove Briggs actually purchased any personal items on the trips. He also fails to prove that checks deposited in 2001 (key evidence cited by Yore to support a theory of embezzlement) were actually purchased using city money, Parsons writes.
Parsons also alleges the police used the press to "try this case."
Police were under intense pressure from theater supporters, the media and members of the City Council to release more information.
But Parsons said the type of information released was the problem.
"Certainly there were ways of informing the public of what was going on," Parsons said. "I don't think what the police released was a valid or a sincere attempt to educate the public."
For example, Police Chief Lynne Johnson's May 15 release stated "the investigation has revealed significant instances of serious financial misconduct and other possible criminal activity," Parsons said.
"It's not being honest. It's not attempting to educate. It's a political position piece."
Parsons cited two examples of inflammatory comments by Yore.
First, he said Yore noted that Briggs bought gifts and meals for a family member while on a theater trip to Southern California, implying wrongdoing but failing to demonstrate that city money was involved.
"This assassination by innuendo is improper in a document passed off as a final investigative report," Parsons said.
Second, Yore cited "very nice" trips by Briggs and Litfin to Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, "probably using city funds," Parsons noted in the e-mail.
"This is another example of baseless innuendo paraded as damning fact," he said.
Parsons said he doesn't expect the city to decide Briggs' employment status this week. On May 16, the city informed Briggs and Curtis that based on an administrative investigation they were being "recommended for termination," pending separate hearings. The hearings were held in early June.
City attorneys are working with Gennaco to define the scope of the council-mandated probe of the police investigation. Gennaco, based in Los Angeles, said he has done similar work for other communities, including cases where he conducted new interviews with people involved.
Gennaco said he intends to travel to Palo Alto soon to discuss the audit with the council.
A cost estimate for Gennaco's audit has not yet been developed, city staff members said.
Police Chief Lynne Johnson is out of town and unavailable for comment.
Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the burglary that initiated the investigation.