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City manager & council apologize for theater probe

Original post made on Jun 2, 2009

The Palo Alto Children's Theatre and the nonprofit group that supports it received an emotional public apology from top city officials who said Monday night they should have done more to restrain the error-prone police probe that tarnished the theater's reputation a year ago.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 2, 2009, 2:22 AM

Comments (31)

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Posted by Gordon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2009 at 7:17 am

So what dose Michael Yore have to say about all this? Let me guess, nothing! What dose our former Chief of Police have to say about this? Once again; nothing! I'm always amazed how some people have the ability to destroy lives and careers and feel no shame.


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Posted by Sceptical
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2009 at 7:24 am

I hope from now on the City will install better financial accountability practices at the Children's Theatre. If the Children's Theatre is to continue to receive over $1M. annually in support payments from the City of Palo Alto, as a tax payer I want to be reassured that we know where every penny is spent.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2009 at 7:35 am

To: "Skeptical"

Why don't YOU offer to volunteer, go to performances, get involved, and find out. There was plenty of accountability on the part of the Children's Theater. It was City Hall that was messed up.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 2, 2009 at 7:47 am

Not to anyone's surprise the council apologized, with Jack Morton leading the way. That is not a surprise either, considering that he has had a major conflict of interest with regard to PACT. In the past, he has been the lead attack dog, denigrating the police and the investigation even before the results were made public.
Last night he was in fine "Morton-form", not only did he give his "emotional" apology,but he also managed to attack two fellow council members when they dared to not go along with his demands for the formal apology. I am not sure why the council needs to waste even more time on a "formal apology" given the theatrics last night by Morton et al.
But this is the PACT and with the role that some council members have in connection with PACT, this is not surprising either. Of course what was missing last night was any acknowledgment by the council that they must also be to blame for some of this mess. Since there was no apparent oversight from the city and the council either did not care or felt that a "beloved" institution like PACT did not need oversight, I would think that the council would recognize their role as well.
Clearly that was not to be either.


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Posted by Bud
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2009 at 8:14 am

Jim Keene is ending the era of expensive witch hunts and hysteria at City Hall once and for all.


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Posted by Owen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2009 at 8:22 am

The real reason for the PACT investigation should be obvious to anyone who has followed this unfolding tragedy to its sad and inevitable end.

Officer Yore was able to spend his last year on the force doing nothing while charging the city for unlimited overtime. It has been reported that he was paid $270,000 for his final year and thus secure a retirement of $120,000 for the rest of his life. He is 55. Now we know where I tax money goes.

When I was growing up it was considered un-American to criticizes the police. I've come to realize the just the opposite is true.


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Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2009 at 10:27 am

It is a shame that 2 issues were mixed up. Yes the policeinvestigation got way out of line BUT the accounting at the theater was also completely lax. This should be amended as we pay so much money towards this institution and as every parent whose childen are involved in an outreach program by the Children's Theater every production costs the parents even more. Parents pay for the costumes, the tickets (for every performance) and volunteer for every position. All this money is kept by the theater with absolutely none going to the participating school. I for one would like to see the numbers before giving a carte blanche to this organization!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2009 at 10:38 am

Gunn Parent

I wanted to say exactly the same as you, but wasn't able to express myself.

The two issues are indeed separate and I hope that this one apology does not mean that the status quo of sloppy bookkeeping and bad management practices will continue. We agree that the previous directors had no criminal intent, but certainly were not good managers of City owned funds and facilities. Hopefully the present team will be better at that end of their job.

If nothing else, this incident has brought to light some poor practices at PACT and City Hall which must not be allowed to continue. Those of us in Palo Alto who see money being wasted and poor accountability, as well as unfair bias to those families who choose theatre after school rather than sports or something else, have had our eyes opened.


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Posted by Vicky Ching
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 2, 2009 at 10:58 am

When we vote for business tax in November, it would be only fair to also vote on whether Palo Alto should continue the 1 million subsidy to Children's Theatre.


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Posted by Jerry Martinson
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 2, 2009 at 11:04 am

What seems to be forgotten is the effect on the lives of the principals involved. To have such special creative efforts demeaned by a faulty police investigation is very sad. The three people who were working so hard to continue the Children's Theatre have had their lives completely altered.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 2, 2009 at 11:06 am

Gunn parent,
First of all the Children's Theatre does not do Outreach for the High Schools. Second of all the Outreach Costumes are from the Children's Theatre. Participants have never ever had to pay for costumes at Outreach shows or at the shows at the theatre. This is one of the ways the CT is different from many other theatre or dance programs. The parents can volunteer for positions but are never required to. Theatre staff, contractors, and the children themselves take care of the majority of the positions.
It looks like there are better accounting methods now in place at the theatre. Better accounting methods were definitely needed.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2009 at 11:27 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Judy
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

While I am very glad that the apology was made because of the "unbelievable pain" that Pat and others experienced, I wonder if anything can be done to help pay back some of the legal fees. I know that many people in the community contributed to these expenses, but I do not know if that was sufficient.


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Posted by the watcher
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2009 at 12:20 pm

It's typical. Usually in the so-called "real world" of the police department, your suppose to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Just call it a "nether world" pretending to be real. Just look at some of the issues of the past at the P.A.P.D.


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Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Question:

Would they have apologized if the police officer in question was still with the force?

It's easy to apologize and lay blame elsewhere when there is no one to respond.


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Posted by Theater kid since 1966
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Apologize to Pat Briggs??? I seem to remember that she had to return thousands of dollars to the city - from her PERSONAL bank account!
Crimes were committed, whether intentional or not, as laws were broken. The statute of limitations saved Ms. Briggs from prosecution and nothing else.
She should be apologizing to Palo Alto, not the other way around. Decades of good work do not equate to a free pass on thousands of dollars put in a personal account.
Apologies are reasonable and overdue for the other employees (who were not forced to resign and didn't need to return anything).
There is a BIG difference folks.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 2, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Theater Kid,
You obviously didn't read the report.
You are way off-base.
I will repeat what was said before.
The statute of limitations did not apply because there was no crime!
Laws were not broken.
I quote directly from the report:
"And it is
inaccurate to assert that the subjects committed the alleged criminal activity but that
prosecution was not available because of the technical defense of the statute of limitations.
In this case, the real defense of authorization meant that no criminal actions had been
committed by the subjects."

Don't continue to slander people with false accusations.


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Posted by Bud
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Many of the top managers at City Hall who were responsible for the Children's Theatre investigation fiasco got out while the getting was still good, but some are still holding on to their chairs. One of them is City Attorney Gary Baum. Another is old Frank Benest crony from Southern California, Human Resources Director Russ Carlson.


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Posted by Audit
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 2, 2009 at 6:13 pm

This is politics to its ultimate.
Is it reasonable to ask the Theater to keeps accounts in order and be ready for audits.
They are getting a very large sum of money and it should be REQUIRED to have accounts audited.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 2, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I personally hope the people falsely targeted and maligned can sue the sweet daylights out of those responsible and involved.


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2009 at 8:01 pm

A Noun Ea Mus,

Well, they won't be able to sue the City. At least Pat Briggs, from what was in the press. She signed a settlement that said she can't... And signed under the duress of the millions of tax payer dollars Baum could use against her in legal proceedings.

But that is not the case for the "Friends of the Childrens Theater".

I sent a large check to the "Childrens Theater Defense Fund" to give Pat and staff at least some chance in light of the millions of assault money Baum has to use against them.

I would be more than willing to send another large check to the "Friends" if they go after the players in the witch hunt .


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Any overtime Officer Yore was paid during the investigation (or any other OT for that matter) did NOT count towards his pension calculation.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2009 at 2:54 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

To paraphrase an old saw about singing lessons, what did Palo Alto do with the money their Mom gave them for management lessons?


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Posted by Ben
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 3, 2009 at 6:16 am

I really wonder how Officer Yore feels about all this. Dose he feel that he's done a bang up job, or dose he feel that he screwed the pooch?

My guess is that he, and the rest of the PAPD, believes he did a great job, but Palo Alto is just too liberal to understand. I know most members of our police force feel that they are too good for the community that they serve, that we don't deserve them.

There they are, risking their lives to patrol the mean streets of University and Hamilton Ave. How could people like us relate to such courage?


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Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2009 at 7:59 am

Ben, Palo Alto residents have always been seen as "On their high horse" not the PD. I mean no disrespect, I realize every community has the good and the bad. But, to argue your point, the PD has done a fantastic job (that was hard to write) because University ave and Hamilton Ave are so safe. Stop hating "the man" and enjoy the fine city that you reside in.


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Posted by DZ
a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 3, 2009 at 9:34 am

What's the councle going to say about "17-year-old girl killed by Caltrain in Palo Alto"????!!!! They are either talking about huge things like global warming, or tiny problem like the theater probe, what about reality of life in PA? Does our kids get killed worth their time to think and talk about?


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Let's not use the tragic suicide of a young girl as another cheap way to slam the city council, or the PAPD, whatever...or any other pet peeve you might have.

I am sure everyone is very sad about this and it's in their thoughts deeply.


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Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Off topic, but a good question.

If there were a string of murders, it would be the job of our police to determine if they were related, and find out why the murders happened, and try to stop the murders.

But a string of suicides? Who is responsible for exploring links such as specific drugs, on-line sites, people connections, activity connections, Gunn courses or teacher/staff connections, etc.?

I agree with DZ that this is more important than much of the stuff that gets attention by the city government as a whole, and that the city council ought to ensure some resource is put in to understanding why this is happening.

While I've done my share of dumping on them, I don't see this as dumping, it's a discussion about calling it to their attention.


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Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm

What in the world is the financial justification for spending $1,000,000 on the Children's Theatre? I believe in supporting them but that is a huge sum of money and seems out of touch in terms of the current economic climate. Every PA tax payer is underwriting the Theatre. Why ? I suggest a much lower donation from the City, that is us, and them getting the rest through their fund raising programs. In this way the Theatre is supported by people who believe in its mission as opposed to using tax payers' dollars from people who may not want their money spent in this way. Again, I am happy to support them, but not to the tune of $1,000,000.


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2009 at 5:46 pm

My guess is, right about now Frank Benest is beating his head agents a wall. His big mistake was placing his trust in Chief Lynn Johnson.

I remember reading a newspaper article that came out when he promoted Johnson to chief. Johnson scoffed at those who felt that a woman could not do a man's job. She said she proved them all wrong. Well guess what Lynn, you proved your detractors all right!


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 3, 2009 at 9:16 pm

"it's a discussion about calling it to their attention."

Oh right.....

"What's the councle going to say about "17-year-old girl killed by Caltrain in Palo Alto"????!!!! They are either talking about huge things like global warming, or tiny problem like the theater probe, what about reality of life in PA? Does our kids get killed worth their time to think and talk about?"

4 question marks and 4 exclamations.

Cleary the insinuation is that (in addition to probably a host of other evil things the council doth do)...well the words, tone, and inanity speak for itself.

Calling it to their attention? Gee why don't you attend the next city council meeting and ask if they are aware of the tragedy and make some more insinuations and posture to and fro?

Disgusting.


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