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Settlement near for theater's Pat Briggs
Original post made
on Jul 11, 2008
A closely guarded settlement agreement is reportedly near completion that would allow Pat Briggs, the terminated director of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, to return to work but face some disciplinary action.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Thursday, July 10, 2008, 10:48 PM
Posted by Jackson
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2008 at 11:57 pm
I have no inside knowledge but picture if you will----
that you are in charge of a large children's theatre.
Picture that your top priority has to do with the kids;
you know..their safety, that they receive great instruction in civics and art and that you help them become solid members of society all while having some fun along the way.
Practically all parents know this instinct.
But underneath that top priority are all sorts of lesser ones, although they are important as well.
Things like making sure you change the oil in your car, making sure that the facility is looked after, making sure all your employees are taken care of, making sure that the shows are as engaging as possible for the audience, making sure all the adult contingents in the community feel respected and listened to-even if they often have conflicting agendas.
Now, picture that you, somehow, are very good at this job.
The programs you offer your community attract more and more kids.
Soon, choices must be made, some of which are very hard.
Do you start to go prolific and give a lot of kids a little, or do you cut off members of the young community to give a few kids a lot?
Perhaps another option is to try and expand your operation simply because the demand and the commitment is there.
An internal decision is essentially made to do as much as you can for as many people as possible, and to hope that once in a while, quality will find its way to accompany the prolificity.
Slowly, this job becomes your life.
The resdience becomes little more than a dormitory.
After all, how do you say no to helping when people tell you you're talented at it, when you love it and when you can pay your rent with it?
The paycheck comes in, which is enough to allow you to concentrate fully on the job with no financial distraction, but much of it sits unspent because of the spartan lifestyle of service required.
Part of the job involves managing the city's money. It starts simple. You get a budget and you stick to it. But later it gets complex. Then it gets impossible.
Seemingly, people get paid to make it more complicated. But that makes sense because if it were free of constant problems, the person running it would work fewer hours and get paid less.
After all, if the city's rat-catcher ever gets them all rounded up, will he not be rewarded with unemployment?
The kids are a joy overall and the rest of the job is good, but the accounting gets to be the sillyest part of the entire job.
One hand that instructs you knows not that its second hand is instructing you in the exact opposite way.
Every year brings new software, new codes, new instructions and soon enough, the need to give so much attention to the accounting begins to eat away at the time that is normally accorded for the children.
You pay someone else to do your income taxes, but this is ten times more elaborate, but it is you expected to do it.
So, you begin to do the accounting in a more hasty manner.
Things get signed before the fine print is read. Some accounting gets shoved and not even looked at for days on end, until a lull can be found in which countless forms can be rushed through in as little time as possible.
Is this proper accounting? No, of course not.
But you can live with it for three reasons...you know that you're not stealing any of it, you know you're staying under budget and you know that it's all going for the kids.
The line blurs. The job has become your life. Some money gets commingled. Some of it is because you have more details to handle than you can remember and some of it is because it just seems more efficient that way from time to time.
Decades roll by.
You begin to realize that someday, you'll be leaving your estate to the theatre. More personal money makes its way into helping the theatre because its quicker than filling out forms and some of it works its way back in.
The thought crosses your mind that you may have not received as much money to spend on the kids as was budgeted because procedures weren't followed but you tell yourself that it will be a wash.
The other thought crosses your mind that maybe too much money was received through some other flaw in the system that you were too busy
to monitor but you feel that is a wash because it will all go to infrastructure
and create a situation where less money will be required from both the City and from donations down the road.
Overall, the theatre is purring, and the money flow seems to be fine, but as your age increases, you become even more devoted to the programs for the children instead of playing political games and devoting any time to ciphering the accounting feeling that any discrepancies will be nominal at best.
You wonder if you did the right thing. You wonder if you did the wrong thing.
Deep down, you just want the to help create the best possible world for others and make expedient decisions to further that, even if they lack procedural integrity.
You wonder if those that criticize you can walk in your shoes.
You wonder if you will be judged as someone who didn't let accounting cut into your devotion to your fellow human beings or if you will be seen as someone who should have drawn the line at serving the community to instead spend an extraordinary amount of time in order to balance books that will have no net result on the quality of the community.
The thought nags at you after over four decades of working.
Should you spend more of your finite time training and re-training the seemingly endless people at City Hall who make the same
rookie mistakes over the decades, or do you just comply minimally
so you can spend as much time on everything else?
How much of it should be about the kids and how much of it should be about trying to financially balancing that which can never be balanced?
Posted by Katie Christman
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 12, 2008 at 8:36 pm
Whew! Am I the only person to note that Pat Briggs, aside from being a truly wonderful person and mentor, would cost the city MORE money ritired than working? And if MONEY were her goal, she could have retired already and have the more money? And still, as someone pointed out, volunteer at the theater? Pat has become, over time, the heartbeat of the theater, and yes, she has knowledge ad infinitum to hand down to the next generation. Mr. Benest is carefully spending time to show his successor 'the ropes' after what, six years? The idea that Pat could have been removed with no chance to do the same is much of what had all those parents up-in-arms! Are you kidding?
Furthermore, as far as any of US know, those receipts, though signed off by Pat Briggs, may have been submitted by any of dozens and more of volunteers who are long gone. They may not even be wrong in the amounts. What would you do if you bought a hundred hot dogs, buns, chips, etc. every week for six weeks, then lost a batch or three of receipts? You'd probably XEROX the first set, from the same place for the same amount of stuff, but the dates would be wrong. Would you FORGE the dates (easy as hell to do on a xerox, as any self-respecting forger knows)? Or would you just stick them in there, thinking it didn't matter, the total amount was right, anyway.
Pat Briggs takes the fall, it was on her patch, under her jurisdiction. Like Reagan for the Iran-Contra (wait, oh, well) or like Bush for (wait wrong again...) Well, like Carl in Jumanji, there's an obscure reference. The boss is responsible, whether he DID it or not. But embezzlement? Please. I don't think any embezzler would get far at the Children's Theatre. He or she wouldn't have that crazed look from being totally dedicated, wouldn't run around making everything work, and would look totally out of place. I wouldn't try it! Disorganized, yes, but part of Brigg's brilliance is to unite a team to work together to get things done...I think we could use more of her type in our City; when you have a Director instead of a committee, one capable of inspiring people to give their best, amazing things happen.
The suppertime theater plays are mostly all sold out, but Wingspread is still the best deal in town...
Seasoned young adult performers, fabulous plays, evening shows, bring your teenagers, bring your kids (check for kid-friendly shows, one year they did Macbeth), heck bring your grandmother, tickets are still eight dollars.
I'll be there with bells on.
See you at the Theater,