"The outpouring of support from the community really reflects the kind of moral compass Pat has, and she would never do anything intentionally to harm the Children's Theatre," said de Seve, who works in the Palo Alto law firm of Nolan, Armstrong & Barton.
De Seve said she wanted to "encourage the community to keep the pressure on so we get a swift resolution and get Pat back into the theater where she belongs."
On Saturday, supporters of the Children's Theatre did just that, rallying in front of City Hall. Nearly 100 people, some in costumes, showed up to voice support for the theater's suspended staff and to question the police investigation.
Some participants held up signs, including "We (heart) Michael," a reference to the late Assistant Director Michael Litfin, who died Feb. 1. He had been undergoing treatment for cancer, but the precise cause of death has not been announced.
De Seve's statement followed a Friday press release from police Chief Lynne Johnson, which disclosed that "tens of thousands of dollars" are involved in the investigation.
Johnson's letter says department investigators are working "tirelessly through their days off and on weekends to complete a thorough and objective case as fast as possible." She added that the department understands the importance of the theater to the community.
Johnson said the investigation to date has included:
- Witness and employee interviews.
- Review and analysis of thousands of city documents and e-mails.
- Search warrants served on numerous employee bank accounts (with the average turnaround time for obtaining information from these searches being six to eight weeks).
- Search warrants served on three employees' homes and a number of storage lockers, including one belonging to the Friends of the Children's Theatre, a nonprofit support group.
At Monday night's City Council meeting, the Friends asked to be cleared in the investigation.
"We've been dragged into the mess although we have done nothing wrong," said Paula Collins, president of the Friends.
The theater was abruptly closed late in the afternoon of Jan. 24 and four full-time staff members — including Briggs and Litfin — were placed on administrative leave, with pay, by City Manager Frank Benest.
The theater remained closed for four days but is operating again.
"I asked for the closure in order to secure specific areas of the Theatre to maintain the chain of evidence for the investigation," Johnson wrote in her letter to the community.
The chief also referred to Litfin's illness and death:
"All of us at the Police Department are saddened by the passing of Michael Litfin. He was a valued employee who contributed greatly to the Children's Theatre. On the day of the theater closure, Mr. Litfin voluntarily came into the Police Department and wanted to give a statement. Due to his illness, my investigators did not want him to have to wait, so he was sent home. When we were made aware of the seriousness of his condition, we chose not to interview him."
Finally, Johnson wrote about the sensitivity of the investigation:
"I understand that this investigation is extremely sensitive and emotional. The Children's Theatre is a long-standing and valued institution in our community. The beloved staff have provided years of incredible service to the youth in Palo Alto. This investigation will not overshadow those achievements."
Johnson ended the letter noting that some updates on the investigation may be released, but "due to the complexity of the investigation, I will not be able to answer many of the community's questions until the conclusion of the investigation."
De Seve criticized Johnson's statement, saying it "doesn't add much to tell what the investigation is about, and I think that it's obvious that after seven months they still don't have a case together that they're still spinning their wheels to make a case."
De Seve also represented Litfin, who retained her by Saturday, Jan. 26. Litfin had confided to the Weekly the previous day that he felt he had to hire an attorney and said he was very angry about the investigation. He said he had reported thefts and even called police a few days before Jan. 24 to inquire about the status of the investigation.
That Saturday, de Seve contacted Det. Michael Yore, who is heading the investigation, and "put him on notice that Michael was represented by counsel and was not to be questioned."
But on the following Monday, Litfin was contacted by Det. Mark Venable, who asked him to come in for questioning, de Seve said.
"On Tuesday I again put Det. Yore on notice not to question Michael," she said.
Litfin, who had been undergoing chemotherapy for stomach cancer, had earlier told the Weekly that he was optimistic about his cancer and his prognosis was 55 to 60 percent positive.