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Town Square

Police probe factually flawed, 'Friends' say

Original post made on Jun 9, 2008

The police investigation of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre has "many factual errors in addition to false or unsubstantiated assumptions," the heretofore quiet Friends of the Children's Theatre group declared Sunday. Related material:
  • Briggs' attorney assails release of police report

  • Police transcripts shed light on theater probe

  • TIMELINE: Children's Theatre investigation

  • ARCHIVE: Children's Theatre investigation

    Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 9, 2008, 10:18 AM
  • Comments

    Posted by Parent (non PACT), a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    These Friends, although anonymous, appear to be another name for PACT Parents. Are any City officials or Council members present Friends or past Friends?

    They say that they were never interviewed, but they were only willing to be interviewed with legal representation. This tells me that they had something to hide. Innocent people tend to talk to police until such time as things start looking serious against them and then they hide behind the legal representation clause. These Friends also seem to know their rights better than the average citizen,possibly because they have legal professionals in their midst.


    Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    The "rebuttal" from the Friends to a fairly well documented 120-page police investigation is not very substantive, and does not really disprove anything. If the Friends has documents that the police did not ask for, or they did not turn over because the investigation was incomplete—then perhaps a couple of claims of the report can be disputed.

    The following points from their 3-page "rebuttal" are themselves rebutted:

    Page.2--
    ---
    About half of the receipts in question came from
    garage sales or flea markets where formal, itemized receipts are rarely
    available. Pat often buys Theatre items at these places in order to save
    money but this practice makes precise record keeping difficult.
    ---

    It is difficult to believe that the City would not have accepted a handwritten "receipt" from anyone buying at flea markets for various low-cost items. Date, location, and a list of items, signed by the purchaser would likely be more than sufficient—to any professional that understands the need of City purchasing to account for taxpayer funds.

    Page.3--
    ---
    For the 2007 Atlanta trip, parents of traveling children did pay the
    kids' expenses directly to the City. The Friends reimbursed the City
    for a handful of traveling kids' expenses (referred to as
    "scholarships"). In some cases the scholarship covered a kid's full
    expenses. In other cases, it covered only a portion of their expenses.
    The Friends also reimbursed the City for some of the expenses of
    staff members.
    For the 2005 Atlanta trip, the Friends paid the City $16,282 for
    travel expenses incurred by the kids. The funds came from parents of
    the traveling kids, donations, one benefit performance, and a
    pancake breakfast.
    For the 2003 Atlanta trip, the Friends paid the City $13,208 for
    travel expenses incurred by the kids. The funds came from parents of
    the traveling kids, from donations by others, and from two benefit
    performances. The Friends also made payments to several individuals
    (parents and staff) to reimburse them for minor expenses related to
    fund-raising for the trip (e.g. food at benefit performances).
    ---

    The checks, and transmittal documents to the City, would be needed to clear up this point. The Friends did not provide these documents in an appendix to their "rebuttal". Why not?

    Page.3—
    ---
    A review of available signed copies of these contracts shows, in
    fact, that they appear to have been vetted and approved by City
    purchasing and contract officials.
    ---

    The Police Report indicates that a City Attorney claims that the contracts are "illegal". How does a "media contract" for a non-profit come to claim that the City Attorney is wrong, and that the contracts are legal? Did the lawyer for the Friends review these "contracts" and declare the City Attorney wrong? Where is the Friend's Lawyer's opinion?

    This "rebuttal", as presented to the public, does nothing to disprove the police report.


    Posted by guy, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Innocent people don't want to be questioned by an overzealous police department that has accused their friends and colleagues with very little actual evidence unless the have legal representation present? No! They must be guilty.

    That's such a ridiculous claim I don't even know where to begin. I mean really, your entire argument is that we should throw out the 4th Amendment because only bad people have things to hide. I think that maybe we should let people exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights without such actions being an implication of guilt.

    I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I'm a fan of protecting all peoples' rights, guilty, innocent, or anything in between.


    Posted by guy, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    william - the police report, as far as I understand, did not release records, only a summary report by Yore, yet you seem to demand that the Friends (a group not charged with a crime) release supporting documents. Why should we be any more willing to believe unsubstantiated claims in Yore's report than unsubstantiated claims in the friend's rebuttal? We haven't seen any original sources, all we can go on are these reports and rebuttals. Because of this, I'm going to side with the American judicial standard of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt". And as far as I've seen, we have two reports with equally verifiable, or not, evidence, and as such, I'm gonna side with the Friends, the DA's office and common sense.


    Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    > the police report, as far as I understand, did not release records

    The Weekly has reported that it has reviewed transcripts of interviews.

    And ..

    All of the financial records which the police have used in this investigation are public records, and can be requested by anyone. The Weekly (or the other papers) could have, or still can, request copies of these documents.

    The Friends, on the other hand, is a private organization--and need not respond to public records requests. Therefore, anything that it says must necessarily be ignored (by reasonable people), unless it backs up its claims with documents.


    Posted by guy, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    william - the police also had individual bank records which were never disclosed and transcripts were prepared by Yore. The police prepared documents which formed the basis of their case, a case that never went to court. Thus, when Yore says that vacations were payed for by taxpayer dollars, he has no records proving that claim, it's completely unsubstantiated. Also, because the Friends COULD withhold documents doesn't mean the WOULD if they were asked, as far as I know, no one has asked for documents since their rebuttal was released.


    Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    > Thus, when Yore says that vacations were payed for by
    > taxpayer dollars, he has no records proving that claim,
    > it's completely unsubstantiated.

    And what proof do you, or anyone, have to substantiate the claim that Yore has not records to substantiate his claim?


    Posted by guy, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    william - we can go down this road if you want, but your challenge is stupid at best (note - I'm not calling you stupid, just the logical fallacy you're currently employing). My retort, should I follow your example would be: well what proof do you have have to substantiate your claim that I can't substantiate my claim that Yore can't substantiate his claim. Then you would reply, well what proof do you have to substantiate your claim that I have no proof to substantiate my claim that you have no proof to substantiate your claim that Yore has no proof to substantiate his claim. Then I could respond that you have no proof to substantiate your claim.....

    My point is that in claiming that he knows that these trips were paid for by taxpayer dollars he is relying on records that have not been released, the personal financial records of the people in question. So, in theory, he might have substantiation that hasn't been released, but if he did, it would be a clear, provable instance of misappropriation of taxpayer dollars within the statute of limitations. If this had been the case, I'm sure the DA would have prosecuted the case, this didn't happen. I can't prove a negative, you're asking for me to prove something that is almost always impossible to prove, so whether you simply hadn't realized this or whether you were hoping I wouldn't, maybe you should try a different line of attack? My "proof" that there isn't substantiation to Yore's incredibly broad claims is that the case wasn't pursued. That's as good as anyone who is intellectually honest could do, and I think both of us know that.


    Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    > My point is that in claiming that he knows that these
    > trips were paid for by taxpayer dollars he is relying
    > on records that have not been released, the personal
    > financial records of the people in question.

    This is an official police report. As such, it was not intended to be released (nor the records released).

    > So, in theory, he might have substantiation that hasn't
    > been released,

    The key question becomes then--does he actually have these records.

    > but if he did, it would be a clear, provable instance
    > of misappropriation of taxpayer dollars within the
    > statute of limitations.

    This is a fair point.

    It has not been my intention to claim that the Police Investigation is "proof of guilt", but to support it if it seems to be well laid out, and not full of "obvious" holes. If the Friends can refute the Police Report--it's a shame that they were not able to provide that information within the 11 month period of this investigation.

    Why the DA didn't choose to prosecute this case causes me to wonder what level of proof would be required by the police to make a case that the DA would take to court. The quotes in the local papers does not give one much insight into the legal reasoning process of the DA's office.

    The fact that the DA didn't take the case doesn't mean that the information contained in it is all false.


    Posted by guy, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    "The fact that the DA didn't take the case doesn't mean that the information contained in it is all false."

    Certainly, I find that statement to be somewhat of a strawman argument. Of course because the DA didn't prosecute doesn't mean everything in the entire report was false, I don't even think that the most emphatic PACT supporters would argue that point. For instance, Pat Briggs' name is, in fact, Pat Briggs, so there certainly is some truth in the report.

    However, if the entire report were both true AND provable, which should be the standard for assigning blame and/or societal scorn, then the case should and would have been pursued. Because it wasn't, I feel that we need to look at the report with a great deal of skepticism.

    Lastly, why should the Friends need to refute claims in a police report that apparently could not be proven? The burden of proof is not on the accused, much less those, like the Friends, who haven't been accused and aren't under investigation by the city or previously by the police. In reality, the Friends would have been a victim, and you feel that they, the purported victim needs explain why it is standing by Pat?


    Posted by Doesn't Matter, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    You don't need to go and win and court to decide an employee is a bad egg and should go. If the report is even vaguely true, Briggs should be gone.


    Posted by peter, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Guy. The entire 119 page report can be viewed on line. Go to the city web site, click on city departments; click on police, and in the lower right hand side click on Children's Theatre Police Report. It takes awhile to download and doesn't look like a summary report.

    In the report there are more records than I care to review concerning traveler's checks advanced, records (or non-records) of funds acquired and not accounted for, and all the records of the investigation one needs to understand the complexity of the case.

    The report has several places where Sgt. Yore wanted to make further inquiries of a number of people but could not, e.g. he and Council Member Morton, auditor for the CT, could not find a mutually agreeable time to review Yore's questions. There are other listed unanswered questions to be resolved.


    Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    > Because it wasn't, I feel that we need to look at the
    > report with a great deal of skepticism.

    Only if one is trying to avoid facing the truth. There are a couple of wordings in the report with which I am uncomfortable. But we need to remember that police reports are intended to be reviewed only by the police and the DA.

    Police Reports are not supposed to be "scripts" for the DA to prosecute cases. The DA must take this data and make a case within the law. The Police can only do so much.

    We also have the problem of the lack of records because the City is not living in the 21st Century. The Police did not bring up the issue of electronic storage of records, so that the 7-year limit would not be a barrier to police investigations. Who knows what the Sergeant would have turned up if he had access to a state-of-the-art computer system which had all of the records for the past twenty years on-line?

    There also is the matter of records retention by other agencies and businesses--such as American Express and the Palo Alto Credit Union, not to mention the Friends.

    Of course, if the Children's Theater were a private entity .. then none of this would be a matter for the police, or the public to review. The employees of the Children's could submit bills a thousand times, and this would only be an issue for the private Children's Theater management.



    Posted by guy, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    peter - I just re-skimmed the entire report and I stand by my statement that there are zero original records present in the report. In addition, the fact the case case was not submitted to the DA for lack of evidence provides even more evidence that his claims were not fully substantiated by the records he did have access to (the one's he chose to adapt into the report). I'll be going through the entire report carefully eventually, I just don't have time now and don't have access to a printer for easy study.

    william - I look at everything implying guilt with skepticism, including statements that the city engineered this investigation to shut down the theatre or that Yore acted illegally in pursuing the case. I think everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and as such, guilt claims require substantial proof.


    Posted by William, a resident of Charleston Meadows
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    > I think everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and
    > as such, guilt claims require substantial proof.

    This is an incomplete police report--not the transcription of a trial that resulted in a conviction.


    Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    William,

    Glad to hear you say: "This is an incomplete police report". One of Yore's admitted areas of omissions is the lack of any meetings with the "Friends". Yore says on page 00063:

    "The Friends board members would not speak to the Police without (REDACTED) the attorney representing the Friends organization present and therefore have not yet been interviewed".

    Well, Yore flew to Texas to interview someone for this investigation, but he wouldn't meet with the Friends because they wanted their lawyer present!?!? What was he afraid of? Could it be an environment where the truth might prevail, and "suspect entrapment" precluded by the presence of the Friends lawyer?

    On page 00013 Yore says: "Briggs' and Liftin's pattern of conduct is to lie by omitting material facts and to provide false and/or misleading data..."

    And Yore intentionally won't meet with the Friends to omit their input?

    Sure sounds like a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    On a prior comment, thanks for your take on a SC county "civil grand jury". I tend to agree with you, it will never happen, but not for the reasons you state.



    Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
    on Jun 9, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    William,

    One other small point. Agree with you regarding 21st century document systems, and for a start, why can't the City provide the police report in native PDF format, not as a scan of hardcopy put into PDF as a graphic.

    A search ability on a document this large would be a big help. Love to see how many times Yore accused someone of lying, or look for places where the same information is represented in contradictory ways.



    Posted by fireman, a resident of another community
    on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:19 am

    The City have never been too good with facts or the truth. They do not even want to write them down??


    Posted by Curious Jorge, a resident of Mountain View
    on Jun 11, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    So what is the deal?

    What are the chances Pat Briggs will be back in time to start casting the
    first of the three summer plays
    AND
    if not, then who is being tapped in her place to try to fill her shoes?

    In addition, has anyone even been considered to fill the shoes of the late Michael Litfin?


    Posted by fireman, a resident of another community
    on Jun 12, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Curious Jorge. I think you are underestimating the Citizens of Palo Alto. The ones against the theatre. Have the children in there sights. They will be preparing the white sheets and filling the gas cans. Some have friends in HIGH places and they will be calling them.
    The theatre is not what they approve of so it must go. And you to if you try to get them to fight oops play fair.
    This will not be finished until they get there way. which is the right way, all the others are wrong.

    Frank might one day be gone?? But all his friends and the people who played ball with him. Play like he does are all STILL HERE....

    They just wont write anything down in the future and will have learned a little more about FOOLING the PUBLIC.... Remember Frank packed himself one fat suitcase filled with CITY OF PALO ALTO benefits. The real estate market is down so he is not going anywhere.

    Maybe his trip was to find a new job? Half way around the world just might be far enough.