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Police auditor to investigate theater investigation

Original post made on Jun 10, 2008

Calling for a thorough inquiry into the criminal investigation of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, the City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to expand the workload of the city's independent police auditor to make the probe broad enough to examine fully the 11-month police investigation into suspected embezzlement by theater staff.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 6:49 AM

Comments (50)

Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 7:49 am

The actions of the City Council last night were distrubing. while I applaud Yeh and Schmid for their efforts, I am dissapointed that the members of the council did not consider the conflict of interest that two of it's member's have regarding the PACT affair and did ask them to recuse themselves.
Clearly Morton's comments above and his past vilification of the police and this investigation clearly demonstrate that he is ethically-challeneged. While Mayor Klien fairs no better considering his past attacks on the investigation as well.
It appears to me that two of the council members are attempting to steer the council in a a direction it should not be going in. I am not sure why teh remaining members do not see anything wrong with this or is it just the "good old boy" mentality gaining th eupper hand in council chambers.
Either way, I feel that Morton and Klein should not only recuse themselves from this issue, but should consider resigning from the council considering their apparent lack of ethics and morals. They will not be missed if you add up their total years in council service, they have accomplished very little indeed.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:10 am

I agree with BBB and also with Schmidt, the City should ask itself what went wrong and why none of this was discovered internally over the past twenty years or so. This is bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but it is also not putting doors on other stables to stop the other horses from getting out. When will the Council learn that they have to start behaving as employers of our city staff and make sure that they do their job properly on our behalf.


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:19 am

Police auditors, independent accountants, outside consultants etc. and how much will all this cost. What a waste of the taxpayers money!! Move on folks, lets get this over with.




Posted by Investigate Morton, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:30 am

What really needs investigation is Jack Morton's accounting as CPA for the Friends of the Children's Theater. And his dramatic displays on the city council. Multiple reimbursements that he didn't find for years?
Now he points at the police to cover his incompetence and complicity.
To say he has a conflict of interest is too mild. He is covering up his own contribution to the mess.
None of this would have happened if Morton had properly gone over their books and corrected the mismanagement.


Posted by Suzan Stewart, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 10, 2008 at 12:08 pm

What was presented last night were facts about the source of the funding for the travelers checks that were burglarized. People in the community had been led to believe that because the checks were issued by the City of Palo Alto, this was city money that the staff was improperly keeping and/or using. It is understandable that the police were confused. What is not understandable is why the city manager did not immediately explain to the police that the city had authorized the purchase of those checks with money that had been specifically given to the city by parents and Friends to pay for a city authorized Childrens' Theatre trip. The left over checks were not city money, but parents' money, which the parents told the staff to keep to use for other trips. The wisdom of keeping the checks in a closet may be debated. But what was stolen by the burglars was NOT stolen city money. Someone should have immediately explained that to the police instead of allowing them to pursue the concept that this, as well as costume sales, was "embezzlement". The police can be faulted for jumping to conclusions without getting the facts, or for trying to make "facts" fit their speculative theories. But the City Manager should have pointed out the source of the money involved right away and encouraged the police to continue their investigation by talking to the people who could best explain what had gone on. Providing the police with facts is not interfernce but help in their pursuit of the truth.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Suzan,

I don't understand your logic. PACT is a city program. Who cares
where the funds originated? Once money is donated to PACT, it
becomes city money (in a PACT budget) and should be managed according to the processes and policies of any city department.

Besides, money is fungible and PACT receives, if I understand it
correctly, $1 million per year from the city general funds.

According to your argument, it would be OK for the Utilities Dept,
for example, to do whatever they wanted with funds from utilities
billings, because that was "residents money", not city funds.

Bottom line is that as a city government organization, PACT has
to be managed in line with city govt best practices and not as
a private fiefdom, no matter how "beloved" and "irreplaceable"
the staff members are.

Biggs does get paid a professional level salary, so its not too
much to expect some minimal adherence to modern fiscal
management practices.

This whole process has been very eye-opening!



Posted by Andrew, a resident of Southgate
on Jun 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Suzan Stewart,

If money is given to the City, it goes into the general fund, unless there is a specific account that is dedicated to a specific cause, like the Utility Dept. This is the price that is paid, when a youth group decides to live off the government dole (to the tune of $1M per year).

When you say, "...The left over checks were not city money, but parents' money...", I believe you are mistaken. For example, if I was a developer, and wanted to donate $10K to the City, with the proviso that I am doing so in order to support 2-3 Planning Dept. indivuals attending a regional conference, would it be legimate if I insisted that any remaining monies be split among those individuals? I think a legitmate auditor would call this fraud.

PACT staffers are city employess, and no more than that.

This whole thing smells like rotten tuna. The PAPD had every reason to investigate.

It is time, finally, to kick PACT off the public dole. Let them form their own private, non-profit, board, and raise their own money for their operations.


Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2008 at 1:34 pm

The Council should have waited until the ongoing "Administrative Audit" was complete before cranking up this "Police Audit". Since the Police Investigation focused on "embezzlement", and spent a lot of time chasing invoices, receipts and other artifacts of a possible financial crime--the Administrative Audit probably should cover this ground too--as a check and balance against the Police Investigation.

If the Administrative Audit were to be at odds (radically) with the Police Investigation, then perhaps there might be a need for a Police Audit.

One bit of information that probably needs to come out is what exactly caused the Police to shift gears from the Burglary Investigation and become interested in the financial affairs of the Children's Theater instead?

Of course, the Police Chief and the City Manager could tell us that without having to import more "experts".


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2008 at 3:27 pm

This does not look like sloppy bookkeeping. It looks like a carefully crafted scheme to siphon funds. Maybe in fact it was OK. But it looks very suspicious. The police were right to investigate and conclude that there was probably a crime committed, even though as it turned out there were not able to prove it. We still do not know if the inability to get enough proof was because the whole thing was innocent, or because the perpetrators covered their tracks successfully. The fact that the "Friends" of the theatre, in collaboration with Morton, Simitian and Klein, exerted maximum political pressure to abort the investigation leads one to doubt that there really was insufficient evidence, as opposed to a political decision to drop a hot potato. The City Council is wrong to investigate the investigation, because the facts leading to the investigation totally support the appropriateness and necessity of conducting the investigation.


Posted by In PA's Budget, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Besides the Council's discussion last night on appointing a "Police Auditor" to analyze the Police investigation into the PACT, our City Council passed a huge City budget for 2008 thru 2009.

Buried deep in that budget is another 1 Million for the coming year to finance the Children's Theater. No one specifically mentioned it, but you can bet it's there, buried deep in the pages of this huge financial document.






Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2008 at 7:58 pm

All this goes to show is that those parents of kids involved in PACT will do anything to defend this group. OK - fair enough. But - reasonable people will agree this group is a mess and should be disengaged from the city of Palo Alto and PA taxpayer support. Keep PACT, support it yourself. I am disappointed that certain city officials are acting emotionally as they rush to defend their buddies. Their responsibility is to all the taxpayers/residents of Palo Alto.


Posted by so, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 8:49 pm

so who will investigate the police auditor?

I can have it done if people just send me traveler's checks to cover the costs.


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm

anonymous - I think I'm going to need to take umbrage with you line "reasonable people will agree this group is a mess and should be disengaged from the city of Palo Alto and PA taxpayer support."

Is it really unthinkable that someone could look at the situation and say "Are there problems? Yes and they should be fixed. But, we should keep this institution supported by public money because an investment in the arts is a worthwhile public objective." Is that really not a reasonable approach, to think that the government has a responsibility to encourage youth development in the many fields in which our society works?

Is it possible that some people would rush to judgement unreasonably? Of course, and this happens on both sides of any debate. Simply taking everyone who disagrees with you, putting them in a box and saying they're unreasonable, emotional idiots is about as nuanced a debating point as... well... I really cant think of anything less nuanced or effective. Plus, it makes you appear to have the rhetorical acumen of a sleeping box turtle stuck behind a radiator.


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:04 pm

howard - I, like you apparently, am glad to live in a country where we can leave a cloud of suspicion on people even when no charges are brought. It's really the American way, we get to judge people without a trial, convict them without evidence, it's so much easier than having to go through all that tricky legal system stuff. More fun too!


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:14 pm

BBB - I know my posts are getting less polite, but please go sit in corner where we don't have to listen to you.

"I am dissapointed that the members of the council did not consider the conflict of interest that two of it's member's have regarding the PACT affair and did ask them to recuse themselves."

Okay... so the measure initiating the audit would only have passed 6-1 and the Yeh-Shmidt proposal would have lost 5-2. Nothing would have changed! God, do you ever think before you make these posts? I am so fed up with these thoughtless rants that get put up here where people have no real knowledge of the case, the theatre or previously established precedent. They do the same thing in the US House of Representatives. Delegates from US territories (Guam, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico) can vote, but only if the margin is large enough that their votes wouldn't change the outcome. Maybe if the votes were even somewhat close you'd have an ax to grind. But they just weren't, so you don't.

Can we just stop the ill-informed, ridiculous chest-beating and bloviating that seems to permeate these boards and try, as I've done in the past, to have thoughtful and reasoned discussions? Maybe? No? Ok.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Suzan Stewart's comments echoed what seems to have been the operational mode of PACT. That is : what belongs to PACT/City and residents belongs to the FCT and vice-versa and don't you interfere with the "arrangement..."
For example didn't extra performances result in money "donated" to the FCT? Why do the FCT think that that money, which is city money, belongs to them? And why did Briggs feel that she didn't have to ask anybody before she donates such moneys( which do not belong to her) to the FCT?

Stewart has it the wrong way round: it is not for PACT and FCT to tell police what they want to tell (and only what they want to tell) as if they are in command of the investigation- it is for police to ask questions (FCT are at liberty not to answer but since we are not in Court proceedings I am also at liberty to conclude from that refusal).

FCT and PACT are not being prosecuted for reasons the DA explained, but they aren't being persecuted either. In fact, they are being "treated" to the spectacle of City Council turning against police (as if there is any evidence of wrongdoing on their part ) and the conclusion that a little "sloppiness" is fine with the city. Where are we? Providence, RI?


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:33 pm

narnia - there were contracts with FCT for those performances. The legality of them is disputed, granted, but it wasn't just someone saying "I have this money, I'll give it to them", there was a framework that both FCT and PACT felt was legal and had, according to this article, been approved (maybe mistakenly) by the city. This is one reason that Yeh and Shmidt wanted the separate investigation.

I think you have mischaracterized what actually occurred. If it was intentional, your being dishonest. If it was unintentional you're just being sloppy. Where are we? Providence, RI?


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Correction: it was actually Burt who wanted to know why the city approved the contracts between FCT and PACT, not Yeh and Schmidt, but contracts were approved. It's in the fourth graph from the bottom of the article.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:48 pm

No, no, Guy,

if we are being sloppy it's quite all right in Palo Alto as Mayor Klein impressed upon us.

But please try to not insult others.
"BBB - I know my posts are getting less polite, but please go sit in corner where we don't have to listen to you"
You don't have to listen to anyone on these forums but you can't expect the rest of us to obey you....
And do consider politeness... It does wonders for frustration.


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:52 pm

I've tried to be polite, but I think I'm entitled to one good outburst, it's the people who have that outburst every time that I'm frustrated with (here's looking at you BBB). Lastly, I know people don't have to obey me, I think that's fairly obvious, even from that post. I did say please after all...


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Quoting from guy,
"Okay... so the measure initiating the audit would only have passed 6-1 and the Yeh-Shmidt proposal would have lost 5-2. Nothing would have changed! God, do you ever think before you make these posts?"

yes, the end result would have been the same as far as the investigation goes, but would we have known who had principles? Now, we we are certain.


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:57 pm

People who invoke the "innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" mantra are ignorant of the law. To convict someone in a criminal matter and send them to jail, you need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To conclude, in the context of any sort of non-criminal investigation, that someone is dishonest, all you need is to conclude that it is more probable than not that the person is cheating or stealing. To decide that there is good ground to conduct an investigation or obtain a search warrant, all you need is probable cause. The so-called friends of the theatre have collapsed all these standards together, invoking the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for all purposes. That's just wrong, and has created unnecessary controversy.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:58 pm

yes, guy, it happens to all of us (the occasional outburst). Let us go back to the discussion and see if we can come to some conclusion. It would be better for all of us if we could ...
This is after all a nice place to live and the truth be told the few performances I saw at the PACT were very impressive.


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:02 pm

narnia - your argument is like saying that because Dianne Feinstein is from CA, she shouldn't vote on any measure that can impact CA because she has a conflict of interest. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bush v Gore even though each justice had voted in the election. People are capable of making decisions objectively even if they have personal connections.


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm

howard - the civil standard you are referring to is correction, and the term is "preponderance of the evidence", it also only takes 9 jurors to convict, not the unanimity required in criminal cases. I'm well aware of the law, look back at previous postings from earlier articles. I've also never stated that an investigation is unwarranted or that there wasn't fault in the financial policies at PACT. What I have stated is that to condemn someone who has not been charged in EITHER a criminal case OR a civil case is utterly wrong. Such problems can be fixed without as drastic a punishment as has been determined, hire a part-time accountant, give people a seminar in proper due diligence and let them do what they're trained in, not other areas.

Also, PACT defenders have fallen back on that standard because there is a long history of public service and commitment. The civil standard is less than the criminal standard, but I think that persona opinion ought to be weighed against previous history and that people ought to be given the benefit of the doubt if at all possible. A liberal position, but one I'm very comfortable in.


Posted by guy, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:15 pm

first line should say "correct", not "correction"


Posted by Shaft, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Howard, I wanted to point out a misconception in your post :)

"To decide that there is good ground to conduct an investigation or obtain a search warrant, all you need is probable cause."

For the police to conduct an investigation, or for a legal detention, the standard needed called "reasonable suspicion." Just for clarification here, and no offense to Howard, but "probable cause" is the standard needed for an arrest to be made.

There seems to be a lot of confusion around here, city council included, on what the standard needed for a police investigation. Which once again is reasonable suspicion. Legally, the standard for reasonable suspicion is basically, would a person of ordinary care and prudence believe that criminal behavior may or may not be afoot.

Knowing this, the standard needed for the police to start this investigation is easily met with the unusual practice of taking city money and depositing said money into multiple personal bank accounts. A reasonable person hearing this would think, this isn't right..there could be some criminal behavior here.

Once again, I only pointed to Howard's post because it was recent, not in any way to say Howard's points are all together flawed or is this meant to attack him. I would like however, for people to understand more clearly how such an investigation was warranted and extremely necessary, whether or not criminal behavior was found. Cheers!


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 12:29 am

The police, when they got search warrants, would have to go before a judge to get them approved, so they must have met certain standards of probable cause....


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 4:35 am

Let us stop arguing about something that doesn't exist ( a court case)? The post should discuss only: Is it appropriate for city council to call for a police auditor? by osmosis I think we can discuss: Is Briggs fit to run the theater? Should PACT be under city control or a non-profit institution? What was the role of FCT in this case? Is that role appropriate? and other relevant matters but anything to do with courts is a waste of time and good reasoning. Courts have already been ruled out in the case. If courts come back we will discuss it then but now it 's the audit and its implicationswe are discussing.

-------------------------------------------------------------
The innocent until proven guilty is a standard for court proceedings but nothing else. At the start of a criminal case the court's assumption is that the defendant is not guilty. The prosecution has to prove the case. When police investigates, that is not the standard otherwise there could never be an investigation unless there was a certainty of guilt. Instead there is a series of steps, which go to the police (involves the courts a bit for authorization with certain parts of the investigation) to the prosecuting authorities who judge if there is enough evidence to persuade a jury to convict. Ordinary citizens do not have (and we shouldn't) such standard-we judge all the time from what we believe we know. That is perfectly appropriate. If we were to suspend those judgments we couldn't make sense of the world and function well. For example I "sense" that someone pointing a gun to me is immediately guilty a priory. I judge that O J Simpson did commit a murder and that ken Lay is guilty ( Eron case) despite the fact that his conviction was vacated when he died without appeal..... Equally there is no "innocence" in US laws, only guilty or not guilty though outside the courts we many times proclaim innocence. It's appropriate too. It's part of judging others.
Briggs has not been prosecuted, and this is not a civil case either. This is not a tort case. Nobody is taking her to any court for anything.
What she is confronting now is an administrative charge and the appropriate outcome. As a municipal employee she has certain rights most of us don't. Has nothing to do with the taking anybody to court.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 4:49 am

Guy, you say
"narnia - your argument is like saying that because Dianne Feinstein is from CA, she shouldn't vote on any measure that can impact CA because she has a conflict of interest. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bush v Gore even though each justice had voted in the election. People are capable of making decisions objectively even if they have personal connections."

Part of Feinstein fiduciary duty as Us senator IS defending the interests of california.

The Us supreme court justices didn't PERSONALLY and DIRECTLY benefit from their decision on the BvsG case and they weren't INVOLVED with the development of the case. That why it's different. . Both Mayor Klein and Morton were personally involved, not only with the children's theater and FCT but with the INVESTIGATION -they denied the investigators access to the checks found at Liftin's abode. That is why I think that there
is a monumental conflict of interest. Both of these people shouldn't even give the appearance of such conflict. It's speaks volumes to me that they DO NOT WANT to recuse themselves.


Posted by Suzan Stewart, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 11, 2008 at 7:09 am

The money from the Friends to the City did NOT go to the General Fund but to a fund earmarked to deal with the trips. Similarly, years ago when the Friends raised money to build the outdoor stage, the money did not go to the City's General Fund. There was a special joint account, in accordance with the public/private partnership agreement betwen the City and the Friends. At that time signatures of the Friends' Treasurer as well as from a city official were required on checks related to the building. This time, the city used the Friends' and parents' money for the one special use of paying for the trips..There was no misunderstanding about that at the time. Citizens would be rightly concerned if General Fund money were missing. But the comments indicate the lack of information given to the public about the transactions involved.
There are some who argue that money from special performances should have gone to the City like all revenue from performances, because the City pays for Theatre staff and performances. In past years, the city was delighted when the money from special performances went to the Friends because the Friends then used it to contribute to the building fund (an asset worth over a million dollars, and the biggest gift to City facilities since Lucie Stern built the Community Center). This time special performance money was used for scholarships to help families who could not write a check to the City to send their kids on this very special trip. (Inncidently,the Childrens' Theatre performcances brought more national recognition to our city.) Pat always cleared this arrangement with the City beforehand, and the City was always delighted with the arrangement because it was for the direct benefit of the City and/or the kids. If the City no longer wants the Friends to make these kinds of contributions to City facilities and programs, then Friends groups for the theatre and other institutions won't do so. But nothing was ever done without not only City approval but also great expressions of appreciation. It may look "strange" to people who do not know the relationship of trust and cooperation that until now has existed. But the donations to the City for the trips were within the operational "norms" for how things were done and the funds were not for the General Fund. Perhaps in the future the City will want to do things differently, but not ex post facto.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 7:45 am

Suzan.

Your explanations are what exactly is at the core of this matter. That PACT and FCT acted as one organization or in concert with each other. Where there not times in which the authorization for the disposal of city property (costumes) or/and moneys resulting from performances came from Briggs herself ? Is it not true that costume sales between 2000 and 2007 raised 22,733.00 which were city property and were given to the Friends? The city , that is us payed for those costumes.

FCT is a 501(c)(3) United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c) if I am not mistaken. You do have to comply with the requirements for taxation exemption. Your accountant is/was Jack Morton city councilman.

Were there children whose parents/guardians are involved with the FCT and got their trips payed directly or indirectly totally or in part from the moneys that came partially or totally from PACT activities?
Please, just Yes or No.
We are all educated adults and would appreciate less foggy explanations than the ones we have been getting.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 7:59 am

Disgusted, You are right A HUGE WASTE OF MONEY. But what else is new for the fools running the City of Palo Alto. History does repeat itself. This INVESTIGATION, one of the many that have and will go on in the City of Palo Alto are just ways to make the Citizens look the other way and feel that some type of justice is going to happen.
The investigation of the Sandbag Scam was a huge joke. Like this one and all the rest. The council and city leaders are going to get a group to investigate how poorly they have run the City. To investigate how much money they wasted here and in other parts of the city?? You really thing they will catch themselves with there hands in the cookie jar?? RIGHT. The City Council will look for a group to investigate this scandal that (WILL WORK WITH THE CITY to help them distort the truth to a point where no one knows what it is. This is not about who is the Guilty one. It should not matter who's side you are on. What does matter is the truth. The SYSTEM in Palo Alto is so corrupt along with a large number of its leaders, both on the city council and the payroll. The city has a list of groups that will be CITY friendly, they know that the city will be paying them, the City will have future work for them. They are bought lock stock and written report by the City.
As I was told by one of these groups. We are City employee's, we get paid by the city, they are the ones who hire us. NOT THE CITIZENS. If we back or support the City Employee's in most cases or say anything that might hurt or make the City look bad. Are report will be trashed ( Sat on or Discredited, like the Firefighters work climate survey) and we will never work for this city again or when the word gets out to others City managers and other city council members that we WILL tell the citizens the truth. No more work for US. We are kind of like city employee's with no rights. No union. We are private contractors who live by the CITY or Die by the city ,we must protect them. They pay us to.
So not picking a side. The City has people, City Manager and Auditor for starters who are paid to know what is going on in this City, For 20 years, 20 years they have let this Organization run in the City of Palo Alto. For 20 years this has not been a problem the City had Millions of Dollars to waste. Now many of the misguided citizens of Palo Alto want to blame there problems on a scapegoat. Not on how poorly the City has been run. One side picks there goat and the other side picks theirs. Leaving the truth out of this whole huge mess. And the Law, well the law never did mean much to the City Manager, City Attorney and if you read the paper any or most of the City leaders and council members. It is something to work around. Like a oral report on city business??? Now that is one sick system you got going there.
What truly gets me is HOW MANY HALF and misinformed citizens think there worthless, unfair and dysfunctional system that is in place will do anything but cover up and protect the people causing all the problems. There are lots of crooks making good money in this system and if you buy into it. You to will rep the Financial benefits along the way. The SYSTEM... Take a look out your window, How well is your system working????

THE SYSTEM has gotten to many citizens ripped off, to many City Employee's hurt and way to many inept , ego driven, truth fearing leaders in this City very fat on salary and benefits. Funny how they all cry pay me like a private Employee, just do not grade me or judge my work by this PRIVATE Industry standard. Where you have performance goals and standards to meet. Well guess what you have way too many rats to catch in the City Of Palo Alto.. Just build a 60 foot wall around the place to keep it from infecting the rest of the state country or world for that matter..
You can choose to fight this, choose not to, choose to look the others way and buy tons of BS and excuses. And think that this joke of a city is just OK? Any way you look at it you have made a choice And by looking at were this city is now, its past and where its future looks to be going. Not many of you have made any good choices.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:26 am

Suzan says
" In past years, the city was delighted when the money from special performances went to the Friends ..............Pat always cleared this arrangement with the City beforehand, and the City was always delighted with the arrangement because it was for the direct benefit of the City and/or the kids."

The City is a legal entity. It does not "delight" or have any feelings.
Somebody had to give authorization for the disposal of city property worth over 22,000.00
(against all best municipal legal practices) over 7 years.
Who was it that Briggs says cleared the way for giving an organization outside the city objects worth over 22,000.00? Who was delighted?
Who did the Friends say reassured them they could receive such gift without further inquires?
Palo Altans are not stupid or uneducated. We need the answers to those questions to make up our minds since Suzan and others claim it's our collective and personal ignorance that prevents us from a "better" understanding.
It's your turn Suzan. Don't beat around the bushes. Just answer the questions and we will better informed.


Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:37 am

> there was a framework that both FCT and PACT felt was legal

This is most like a false statement, in light of the statements attributed to a City Attorney in the Police Report. If there is collusion between employees of the City to bypass accounting procedures--which might well have been the case--then these "contracts" could hardly have been considered as "legal".


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:50 am

stupid or uneducated if not so, Why all the problems. Then next, WHY FOR 20 YEARS. Someone is missing the boat. Someone must be stupid or uninformed of what is and has been SOP. IN THE EVIL EMPIRE.


Posted by Albert, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 11:46 am

Someone wrote --
--
Briggs has not been prosecuted, and this is not a civil case
either. This is not a tort case. Nobody is taking her to any
court for anything.
--

Wonder if some enterprising lawyer might be able to cook up a case for a resident to sue Briggs for the unrecovered funds identified in this investigation.

or maybe suing the city government for not following its procedures ..

or maybe suing the outside financial auditor for not finding these money handling improprieties ..

Don't lawyers have a good time saying .. "you either knew, or should have known"..

So .. bring on the lawyers ..


Posted by Bob, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Narnia,

If a city can not delight, then is it also true, that a court can not be pleased?

I'm on your side for shutting down the theatre down so I can get a tax rebate but if anything your petty style of argumentation is doing more to harm then help.


Posted by Mike, a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Bob,

If the city should ever shut the theatre down, then wouldn't the new private theatre get to keep the building and all the improvements they made to it. After all, wasn't it bequeathed to them by the original owner for the purposes of housing a permanent children's theatre?
In addition, wouldn't the privatization of the theatre mean that they could start charging for the priviledge of going into all those elementary schools and doing plays for them?
I guess if they didn't go in, the city would save money, but the teachers who had to do the plays would be overworked and underpaid even more and the quality of the experience might be less worthwhile for the kids.
With privatization, what provisions would be made for the kids who can't afford what would become skyrocketing activity fees, and even worse, what would happen to the children with parents who HAD the money, but who simply preferred to keep it in pocket. Sure, parents always know best, but some kids sometimes get left out because of that.
Also, what would kids end up doing without the option of having that theatre? Would other city programs possibly have to start up at a significant cost just to help keep Palo Alto as the above average community it has always been?
Would all this be worth whatever tax savings each resident would save every year? What would that figure be....about $40?
Yes for Narnia, I guess.


Posted by Narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 5:56 pm

For God's sake Bob, I though it was obvious that I was referring to Suzan assertion that the city was delighted, meaning that someone had to be delighted and say so otherwise how could she know she know the city was delighted? Who is that person/s?
When you address the court you are addressing the judge " if the court pleases" is a form of address it doesn't have a literal meaning. Court can refer both to the set of judges and the room/building. When there is a trial we do know who the judge/s are. We should know who was delighed.
Do you need Jeff nunberg to explain it to you?

W'll never get anywhere like this because to get to the bottom of something it's necessary to leave distractions behind.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Mike,
The PACT would NOT became a private enterprise. They would be just like the FCT a 501(c)(3) enterprise, that is a non-profit. They can give as many scholarships as they like.
It would be exactly like the TheatreWorks. They don't do badly, they are non-profit and they have educational programs.
In any case PACT serves a small percentage of children in PA.
Sure, they would have to fundraise for their money and set up a development office. But I guess PACT already is that. It gave very generously to the Friends.


Posted by Janice, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 12, 2008 at 6:52 am

Narnia,

Doesn't PACT actually serve every Palo Alto child who is in the elementary school system on a 3 year rotating basis?

Methinks the percentage is much higher than small.

What percentage of the city's budget would you allow overall to arts and activities, or would you be in favor of complete privatization?

It seems to me that starting up a similar program to Theatreworks right next to Theatreworks would essentially cannibalize the fundraising efforts of both and in essence, work to limit the opportunities and growth for the children in our community.



Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2008 at 9:20 am

janice,

No, PACT doesn't serve every child in town who wants to participate.

All non-profits compete for funds and patrons. Competition is a also some measure of how good you are compared with others.

And why do you persist in calling for a non-profit independent status privatization. Either you don't know what private means or you are twisting what those calling for the end of a PACT as a city department* are saying.


* It wouldn't mean necessarily the end of moneys from the city for PACT.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2008 at 11:01 am

> it wouldn't mean necessarily the end of moneys
> from the city for PACT.

But it should.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Bob,

it's a little disconcerting that my questions, which go to the core of controversy, be classified as petty style (I have never been accused of that). If Suzan cares to tell us who authorized the funds in kind to be transfered (that is the one who declared delight and signed on it ) we will know where to place responsibility. It's as simple as that. Once we know who is responsible we can ascertain if that transfer was legal, wise or improper and what motivated it. But the question I asked was the most pertinent so far. Is that why Suzan eclipsed? I fear she will not answer it straight.


Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 13, 2008 at 10:33 am

> If Suzan cares to tell us who authorized the funds
> in kind to be transfered

This would be a public document, and available for access by anyone taking the time to ask for it.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Palo Alto is advertising to fill the position of Theater Specialist at the Children's Theatre. Could this be Michael Litfin's former job? Here is the link to the job description: Web Link

Frank Benest told the City Council they would need to eliminate one million dollars a year from the operating budget to help pay for the annual debt service for Lynne Johnson's new police building.

The Children's Theatre annual budget is one million dollars.

If the theater is privatized to save the city one million dollars a year that is then used to pay the debt incurred to build the new police building, then common decency requires that the building be named for Pat Briggs whose reputation was tarnished by the release of a police investigative report that is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act. [California Government Code Section 6254(f): "nothing in this division shall require the disclosure of that portion of those investigative files that reflects the analysis or conclusions of the investigating officer."]

However, it might be difficult for the City Council to name a police building for a living person.

May I suggest in that case that a police building funded by one million dollars a year from the Children's Theatre be named for Michael Litfin who died at the start of the investigation, only one week after the theater was closed in the presence of children rehearsing for a play.

Just think: The Michael D. Litfin Public Safety Building


Posted by Deeper throat, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Yes, let's name the new police building after a suspected embezzler. Pat Briggs tarnished her own reputation with mismanagement and possible embezzlement. A fine example for our children.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff].


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Hmmm...... Lets see..... We need to name the public safety building for someone no longer living....

That person should be someone prominent and held in high regard in the community...

That person's association with the Palo Alto Police Department should be one that exemplifies the true nature of the department...

Ok, I've got it! The Albert Hopkins Public Safety Building



Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2008 at 9:11 am

William says:
> If Suzan cares to tell us who authorized the funds
> in kind to be transfered

This would be a public document, and available for access by anyone taking the time to ask for it.

-----------------------------------------

It isn't. Suzan statements of "delight" are vague. Briggs statements are too vague. I read the report. It looks as if Briggs herself signed the transfer at least twice . But I want clarity on this and so far there is none. Suzan is nowhere to clarify anything. The FCT don't either.
But if you (William) can point out where such information might be located I really would appreciate. Maybe the too cozy relationship between Briggs management and FCT made it look like a family affair: you really don't need to ask, just take it.


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