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Curtis to return to Children's Theatre Friday

Original post made on Aug 26, 2008

Richard Curtis, who was fired in June, is again the program assistant of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, according to a settlement reached Tuesday afternoon.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 7:29 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by LWH, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2008 at 8:53 pm

I don't think the city has a "black eye" that needs to be healed. I think the Children's Theater has a black eye. Starting w/ a completely clean slate is the best thing this organization could do.

Too bad the union can't help itself "helping" these employees. They got a real break here. They should take a lesson, and quickly move on, and let the Children's Theater have a chance to recover its reputation.


Posted by Sue, a resident of Stanford
on Aug 26, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Welcome back, Rich! This is great news.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2008 at 6:53 am

like much of Palo Alto governance, ...sound and fury, signifying nothing.


Posted by Diane, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2008 at 6:56 am

Wahoo! Great News Rich, Welcome back!!!!!


Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2008 at 7:12 am

That is too bad. Looks like if you are associated with PACT you can get away with whatever you want, since PACT is a "beloved" institution and has the full protection of certain city council members who do not know the meaning of conflict of interest.
It is clear that ethics have no place in our halls of governance or some of their institutions


Posted by Waste of money, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2008 at 8:39 am

What does this guy do anyway? Selling tickets to the few PACT productions each year does not sound like a full time job to me.


Posted by Bud, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Aug 27, 2008 at 8:57 am

What a mess. Investigations upon investigations, settlements upon settlements. How much has this and all of the other investigations of all the other dramas over the years cost Palo Alto? Who is responsible? Who is accountable? Is anybody watching the watchers?


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2008 at 10:30 am

Ridiculous, but sadly not unexpected. Since they let Briggs return,after she paid back some of [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] funds, the city had to let her minion return as well. Just let them all retire, and stop haunting us. As the old county-western song goes, don't let the screen door hit you on the way out!
Next, get the children's theater OUT of the hands of City Hall. They demonstrated negligence and cannot be trusted to provide adequate oversight. We deserve better leadership of this program, and so do our children. Let's hire professionals to replace Briggs, Liftken and Curtis. Let's hire a business manager for the theater, so we can trust that ticket sales and donations are all accounted for: That no pre-paid trips get later "reimbursed"; nor any travelers checks get pocketed; Oh, and that equipment get properly stored and locked away. Then perhaps we can put this series of outrageous events behind us at last. Gosh I hope so.


Posted by Brandon, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2008 at 11:20 am

Great News!! Welcome back Rich!


Posted by Diane, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Now that this is all done I just have to say something to the scores of people, (I will not mention names) that have blasted and trashed these DEDICATED, HONEST employees over the past year, many of you still do, YOU should be ashamed because it is obvious that you know nothing of what you are talking about. I could go on and on but it is just not worth it, you will still think the worst of people, you will believe the lies and not listen to ones will really knew all along of their innocence, I for one will not be reading your senseless remarks any longer, because that it what they are. I sincerely hope that if you are ever wrongly accussed and your name destroyed that you think back on your un-kind remarks and realize that just maybe you were wrong all along.


Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Diane--thanks for your comments. Clearly you also do not value free speech and the expression of opinions that differ from yours.
I will stand by my comments regarding the PACT, it's staff, the friends of PACT and certain city council members.
I think I know what I am talking about and have made it a point to become aware of the circumstances regarding this mess. Sorry, you do not think that I should have expressed my opinion


Posted by DIANE, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2008 at 1:46 pm

When "Opinions" or "Free Speech" are expressed as relentless' accusations regardless of eventual lack of merit and actual facts and eye witness's are dismissed, that is not free speech but merely grade school bullying at its worst.


Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Diane--thanks for proving my point again regarding free free speech and the expression of opinions that differ from yours.

You mention "relentless' accusations regardless of eventual lack of merit and actual facts "--that has been the cry of the PACT supporters from day one--any accusations made against Briggs, Curtis and Litfin were without merit--this despite the fact that Briggs has had to make restitution to city and the fact that the DA stated the case should be prosecuted, but it could not for various reasons.

You also state "eye witness's are dismissed"--the only eye witnesses that I know of as having been "dismissed" were those that dared to spek out against Curtis and his actions during the Litfin memorial service.

Clearly the MO of the "friends of PACT" and their acolytes both in the private and political sector has been to dismiss any criticism of our PACT troika and to accuse anyone daring to criticize them as being bullys/not knowing the facts etc.

It is clear to me and many others in our community that Briggs and Curtis have been anything but honest. Luckily they had the support of a very vocal minority group in town and the behind the scenes help from certain ethically challenged council members to make sure that they did not get the punishment they deserved.


Posted by Disgusted with our CC, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 27, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Have you noticed that most of those supporting Richard Curtiss return to the PACT come from "Another Community, Stanford, Mountain View". Earlier in this mess I read three letters in the PA Weekly all supporting the PACT, two were from Menlo Park and one from Portola Valley. Then, the following week there was one from Woodside.

These people are milking the taxpayers of Palo Alto who are supporting the PACT to the tune of $1.3 Million a year and our City Council allows this to happen!!!




Posted by Disgusted with our CC, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 27, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Have you noticed that most of those supporting Richard Curtiss return to the PACT come from "Another Community, Stanford, Mountain View". Earlier in this mess I read three letters in the PA Weekly all supporting the PACT, two were from Menlo Park and one from Portola Valley. Then, the following week there was one from Woodside.

These people are milking the taxpayers of Palo Alto who are supporting the PACT to the tune of $1.3 Million a year and our City Council allows this to happen!!!




Posted by Yojimbo, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Unions are the cancer of california. No where is it worse then in Palo Alto where the unions are able to strong arm the city into re-hiring it's members after they are rightfully fired. The unions are out of control and will bankrupt palo alto. There is nothing we can do about this until they consume all of the taxpayer's money.


Posted by sohill, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2008 at 5:02 pm

A settlement is not a declaration of innocence: it's an agreement to overlook deficits of difficult and ambiguous resolution. Curtis did do something wrong and against the rules.
Despite Diana's order for shame to those who think and repeat Curtis proven culpability the fact remains that her orders to stop speaking one's mind have no effect (sorry Diana you'll never make general this way) whatsoever. I'll pay no attention to those orders served with a side of adjectives and continue reasoning as I please.
I think it was right to take in consideration Curtis many years of service and other factors, but to deny his misdeeds as well as the iron fist that municipal workers' unions enjoy in dealing with taxpayers' management teams is incongruous, a tad infantile and quite unreasonable.
So, Curtis is back. I don't like it either, but it's done. Next!


Posted by Sue, a resident of Stanford
on Aug 27, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Dear Disgusted,

I don't think it is rational to conclude that folks outside of Palo Alto who support the theatre are guilty of "milking the taxpayers" of Palo Alto. I pay to attend Children's Theatre performances and have volunteered many hours of my time to help support the workings of the theatre. I'd say the taxpayers of Palo Alto have benefited from the help and financial support of "these people."


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2008 at 3:22 am

The act for which he was fired was not a criminal act nor even an act of insubordination. He accessed a public record to enable his defense against charges. He DID NOT change or attempt to change those records.


Posted by Derek Wood, a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2008 at 10:31 am

Finally. As I've said many times before, Rich Curtis is as honest, hardworking, and dedicated an employee as any organization could hope to have. The City, and the Children's Theatre, are lucky to have him back. It's a great shame that he was ever tarred at all by this whole trumped-up witch hunt.

At long last, welcome back, Rich!


Posted by Katharine Saunders, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2008 at 8:07 am

I am a Palo Alto resident, a proud past participant and current member of the Board of the Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre.

I have known Rich, Pat, Michael and Alison for over 25 years and can say, without reservation, that all four were and are some of the most dedicated, most honorable people I have ever met. The time and love they put into the Theatre stands as a testament to this. I was with Michael at the hospital and was witness to the overwhelming outpouring of love and support he received before he left us. I have been at the City Council meetings and other gatherings where generations of audiences, participants and their families have come together to demonstrate their faith in these four people. Cronyism can't engender a response like this - only years of hard work and dedication to the children of the Bay Area could create this incredible feeling of family.

I personally know the "eyewitnesses" and a little more of the story than has come to light in the media and want to remind everyone that everything is not always as it might seem - newspapers and reporters do not always have access to the whole story, and, even when they do, don't always choose to print it. To those of you who choose to attack the Theatre based on half-truths, I want to invite you to come watch a performance...Come participate in creating a little magic, where shy children are transformed into confident young adults, where kids learn to recognize their own strength, working together to create something beautiful...Come see this magical, welcoming place built on the commitment of a few wonderful people leading the rest of us to be better than we thought we could be.

I'd be happy to lead a tour for you myself because I know that, given a chance to see what the Theatre is made of, you'll understand why we've worked so hard for so many months for these four people who've given us so much.


Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2008 at 8:56 am

Yes, Katherine not everything is as it seems. Briggs ripped off the city for years and has gotten away with it. Curtis disobeyed orders and got away with it.
Thanks to the efforts of people like you and certain council members, Briggs and Curtis are now reaping the fruits of their dishonesty and malfeasance.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Henry Loughman, a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2008 at 10:00 am

My name is Henry Loughman and I worked as the Technical Director of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre from March 2004 through June 2006. I did not always get along with Pat and Michael. We had disagreements on a number of issues. I even think they could have managed the theater better than they were. Many people have applauded them for the many hours they dedicated to their work. In fact, it was one of the reasons I decided to leave. I wanted a career to part of my life not all of it. Sometimes I felt sad that this seemed to be all they had.
However, to watch Pat, Michael, Allison, and Rich being castigated by the likes of "Bye Bye Briggs" is hateful and slanderous. Yes, they may have made mistakes and exercised poor judgment at times. To call them dishonest and corrupt is ludicrous and only exposes ones ignorance.
If "Bye Bye Briggs" or anyone who feels the same way, is interested in justice, fairness and the good name of the City of Palo Alto, then they should take the time and accept the offer of Katherine Saunders and tour the facility. Look past the crowded work spaces, the paint on the floors, the desks piled with papers and see the good. There is good there and it is reflected on the faces of all the kids who have their lives enriched by the opportunity to belong to the community in which you express so much concern.
Best wishes to all.
Sincerely,
Henry Loughman
Tacoma, Washington


Posted by wow, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm

This thread is about returning Curtis to work under a settlement between he and the city after he intentionally disobeyed orders, which is an act of insubordination at the least. It is not a referendum on the magic of the children's theater (which I myself have been a beneficiary of), so Katherine's offer to be tour guide misses the mark in this discussion, and in effect diverts the real issue here.

To entertwine the two, including the charges brought against Pat is a dangerous precedent. It suggests that certain folks (including certain council members who are ethically challenged by the concept of "conflict of interest") are willing to blindly believe that good people don't do bad things, or worse that good people who do bad things shouldn't be penalized because they are "good people".

I don't know Rich, but I know that he disobeyed a direct, legal, legitimate order. Whether he should have been fired or not, let's not lose sight of the fact that he was insubordinate. Sometimes insubordination is the "right" thing to do, but it doesn't come without repercussions.

With all due respect to Katherine and other supporters of PACT, Pat, Michael et al, you do a disservice to the organization as well as to the many children who pass through there to blindly argue the virtues of the people involved and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their actions and resultant repercussions.

You not only miss the point, you miss the opportunity to teach your children that loyalty does not trump accountability. Rather you can illustrate how loyalty can be be a mitigating factor and bring a certain degree of compassion to the equation. But turning a blind eye to accountability is simply plain wrong.




Posted by Bye Bye Briggs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Henry--as part of her settlement with the city, Briggs had to re-imburse PA to the tune of $15,000. That sounds a bit much to be accidental mismanagement of money. It sounds a bit more than "mistakes and exercised poor judgment at times".
Clearly Briggs and Curtis benefited from a small, vocal support group as well as the actions of certain council members, who I am sure pulled strings behind the scenes.
As Wow pointed out above--this is not about touring the facility and seeing the good done there--this is about malfeasance carried out by people who were supposed to be in charge and gross insubordination by others


Posted by Dean, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Does any other city anywhere have all these investigations, settlements,soap operas one after another year after year? Why so many in Palo Alto? Who is paying for all this?


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Dean,

The "investigations, settlements,soap operas one after another year after year?"

These are the result of the senior management within the City, many hired by the City Manager. Additionally there are major contributions by the Council Appointed Officers (CAO's) directly hired by the City Council.

Some of the players in this latest, aptly put, "soap opera" are now retired City Manager Frank Benest, now retired Administrative Services Director Carl Yeats, now retired Community Services Director Richard James.

They jumped ship to avoid the fallout, and our tax dollars are paying for their $$$ Cal Pers retirements.

CAO City Auditor Sharon Ericsson also left employment with the City, although not by retirement, but to rejoin her former employer City of San Jose.

Not everyone has jumped ship yet. Police Chief Lynn Johnson is preparing for retirement as is Human Resources Director Russ Carlsen. Only CAO City Attorney Gary Baum seems oblivious to the fallout.... And perhaps he should feel that way based on history. He dodged the bullet on the 25 million dollar Enron payoff, and most recently on the 330K settlement the City paid in a harassment and retaliation suit against him by his subordinate Casey O'Neil.


All in all, the outcome of this seems to be a batting average of .429. 3 out of 7, but that doesn't factor in the costs of Cal Pers retirements, just the fact that they are gone.


Hope Jim Keene has the common sense to finish the game and bat 1000... But I'm not holding my breath.

As for who pays for the continuing soap opera... Well, you know. It's you!






Posted by Dean, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Good information Outside Observer. Not many people are aware of the specific people accountable for the big mess at City Hall that has been allowed to fester for years. Baum and Carlsen should be shown the door pronto and told not to let it hit them on the a** on the way out. City Hall needs a full cleaning out of these money wasting bureaucrat egomaniacs.


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