Children's Theatre probes still under wraps

Frustration grows as 12 weeks later there is no end in sight for either criminal or administrative investigations

Frustration is growing about continued silence on the status of parallel administrative and criminal investigations into Palo Alto Children's Theatre.

"We're so frustrated we don't know what to do," Susie Stewart, a co-founder of the Children's Theatre Defense Fund, said of continued delays and lack of information.

"It's a nightmare." If the police had a case, it should have been announced by now, she said.

Police Chief Lynne Johnson will only say the investigation is "ongoing" with no breakthroughs to report, and no estimate of when details will be made public.

She told the Weekly last week that some potential witnesses have been reluctant to agree to a police interview. That makes it harder to "prove or disprove the allegations" and slows down the investigation, she said.

On March 26, Johnson estimated the criminal inquiry into "financial crimes" at the city's Children's Theatre would be ready to hand over to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office in three or four weeks.

"It's still a work in progress," Johnson said of the police investigation last week.

Sgt. Michael Yore is continuing to look through bank records, Johnson said.

Johnson said she just doesn't know when the investigation will conclude.

Director Pat Briggs, Costume Supervisor Alison Williams and Program Assistant Rich Curtis have been on paid administrative leave for 12 weeks.

Diane de Seve, Brigg's criminal attorney, said she hasn't been contacted by the department.

"I haven't heard about anything going on. … We have no news," she said.

As part of the separate administrative investigation — examining whether Briggs, Williams and Curtis followed the city's rules and procedures — Briggs was interviewed for two days on March 28 and 31, her employment attorney, Jon Parsons said.

"She answered every question put to her," Parsons said. "She's cooperating fully."

Parsons said the investigator didn't give any indication when Briggs' administrative investigation would be concluded. The investigator is either David Reuben, with Davis-based DR Associates International, or Doug Freifeld, an attorney with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, according to information provided by the City Attorney's office.

Each of the three employees is being investigated separately.

"We were informed there were still other issues to be looked into and other people to be interviewed," Parsons said.

By law, the criminal and administrative investigations must be kept completely separate, in part because employees can be forced to testify in an administrative hearing while in a criminal probe they have the right to decline to testify under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Friends of the Children's Theatre, a non-profit support group, has also retained an attorney, board member Vic Ojakian said.

The Friends' lawyer, Nicole Healy of the Palo Alto-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati law firm, said she did not want to comment.

The Children's Theater Defense fund — founded by Stewart, Mac Clayton and Beth Broderson — has now raised more than $35,000 to cover legal costs of Briggs, Williams and Curtis, Stewart said.

Yet the length of the investigation, which began last June following thefts from the Middlefield-Road theater, is wearing on theater supporters. Its effect on the three longtime city employees, who are unable to speak to the media, can only be guessed, Stewart said.

"What their motives are, I can't guess."

Loyal parents, alumni and former actors of the theater continue to address the City Council each week, although council members have said there is nothing they can do and that they also are not being told details of the investigations.

"Why can't anyone talk to anyone?" theater alum and sometimes-employee Jeremy Erman asked recently.


Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2008 at 10:59 am

I hve no idea as to the merits of the investigation, but the "friends" of the children's theatre who show up at every city council meeting have more than worn out their welcome. Please stop wasting everyone's time with your irrational outbursts. Let the police do their job.

Like this comment
Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Oy! Put an end to this already. The whole thing doesn't give me much faith in the PAPD or the Children's Theatre. A resolution is way overdue.

Like this comment
Posted by Stephanie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 20, 2008 at 7:33 pm

It is unbelievable and unconscionable that Palo Alto parents would allow the Children's Theatre to be cloaked in the impenetrable veil of secrecy by the police department. Where is justice, where is decency? A misplaced check, a stolen costume, an institution where thousands of children found a home, under a cloud of suspicion with no end in sight?
End the madness and let the principals of the Theatre come home.
End the reign of the police state. Return the Theatre to the community.

Like this comment
Posted by theo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:03 am

hail to stephanie

second that emotion

let the nonsense end!

Like this comment
Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:11 am

Frustration is growing for whom?? The people who believe that PACT should not be investigated at all? The people who see nothing wrong with wasting of city funds and financial malfeasance?
The people who feel that the PACT staff walk on water and are above reproach?
No surprise that they are frustrated. I say let the investigation conclude and then we will see what is going on.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:18 am

Those who believe that residents of PA should not voice alarm when there is a long, unexplained police invewstigation that puts individuals in the position of being punished without being accused of a crime or allowed to adequately defend themselves, ought to ask how they would feel if the police did this to them, and no one spoke up...

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:40 am

As a non PACT parent, I think this should be cleared up. There is a lot of bad feeling in the community and many new issues have been raised. There is a great deal of "us" and "them" between sports, arts and theatre families which is harming our children. We really do want to see this sorted out quickly and any culprits disciplined accordingly. We want all children's activities treated equally and particularly those who are actually paid to work with children proved to be above reproach with a full apology, if that is what they are.

Like this comment
Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2008 at 8:49 am

Mark--good points. However the some of the voices who have spoken up have been speaking since day 1--in other words they were against any investigation from the beginning.

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Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2008 at 10:59 am

Mike, Is so very correct. I guess some just can not stand to see or hear people standing up for the truth and all the facts.

The sad part is that this is not a single event. This is how the City has been run for many,many years.. Culture of FEAR..

It seems that many citizens have to work very hard at staying uninformed,heartless and out of touch with the real world.

I guess they want to have a position on the City Council or be the next city manager or attourney?

Like this comment
Posted by litebug
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2008 at 6:47 pm

I think anyone wanting to be known as "perp walk" pretty much makes clear where they are coming from. That's obviously what (s)he is waiting and hoping for. "Perp walk" has been salivating at this prospect for months in these theatre case threads. One can only wonder at the personal motivation behind it.

This situation with the theatre is just beyond belief. My personal opinion is that PAPD is still shoveling through manure trying to find the pony that will justify their actions to date. That pony sure seems to be elusive. Maybe it's a unicorn they're seeking. It takes even longer to find one of them, I hear.

Like this comment
Posted by Big Al
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Maybe the cops fell asleep-

somebody should wake them up-

and remind them that they are holding
the children hostage

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 22, 2008 at 4:17 am

Benest and Chief Johnson know that this investigation has only to delayed and delayed and delayed a few more weeks, a month or so - before the Fall program is killed possibly forever. They MUST find something to save face. Benest is leaving and will be above the fray and no longer 'responsible' for the carnage. He has a nice home courtesy of the PA taxpayers until his youngest is out of high school. Johnson is getting her orders from someplace. Staff's reputations have been destroyed by inuendo, rumors, suppositions. Something that has never happened before is seeing
programs pitted against one another. Arts vs. sports. Children at PACT DO pay for classes, seminars, camps, etc. There is a lot of ignorance out there, and there ARE people who want to end something that is the very heart of what Palo Alto is all about. A lot of newcomers have come into town with no idea what it is that makes -or made - this city great. It's always been a family city. The children have been its core. It's the arts, and recreation of all kinds, special programs, and the libraries that make this a vital city. There are those
who seem to want to destroy it. How sad. I wonder if these people are dried up, disillusioned, and have no idea what we have or had. It is time to end this tragedy. NOW.

Remember that Palo Alto gave up a fabulous site for income - like a convention center or
hotel or theater at the corner of Page Mlil and El Camino for soccer fields for the children. Luci Stern gave the Luci Stern complex to the city and to the children years ago - even a special place for Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts. There is a children's ZOO and
Museum. THIS is our heritage - and we will have to fight to make sure that no one takes it away, not a city manager and a police chief who are expendable. The children are not.

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Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2008 at 7:41 am

Litebug--my moniker Perp Walk is in response to all those that from day one have bashed the police and city staff over the investigation and claimed that the theatre staff could not have done anything wrong without any knowledge of the evidence.
If they can rant and rail about it, I can also from the other perspective.
Let's letthe police finish the investigation and then see what the results are.

Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2008 at 11:35 am

Frank and Gary , Tried to glue the horn to the head of a Homeless horse. The glue that the 1 million dollar consultant recommended was from his brother in-laws company. This glue really was terrible and very expensive. The city council thought that it might have to find a second unicorn sometime in the near future ,so they ordered more then they could use at one time. Now the First horn fell off and the glue has dried up. Emily has turned her back on these two, 0ops , not a good idea Emily remember it took 15 days to get the knife out last time you did that. "SCAPE GOAT"

They need a little more time to figure out which program that the Citizens has approved and need, for them to take the money from to buy more glue.

There fist choice was a scapegoat,however, they have used all of the city employee's,oops, scapegoats up and need to wait for a new litter. Frank has many times mentioned that the BABY BOOMERS ie; Scapegoats are not quite ready yet, but very soon they will be. so keep an eye out for them.
The mayor has gotten a carbon foot print in his eye , so he is not good for much.. The rest of the council heard that someone has a camera and is taking pictures. They have the rest of the PD looking for this camera person for photo,s of themselves with this rare animal that was found in Palo Alto.

The animal shelter has been told to produce a unicorn or risk huge cuts, staffing reductions or possible being cut all together. So if a palo alto animal control truck is parked outside your corral be very careful and lock everything up. But expect a new tax or a bond to get what the STAFF,CITY COUNCIL and frank and his gang think you can't live without.


Things in Palo Alto are not what they are in any other US city, So just remember everything cost more,takes longer and delivers less than promised in Palo Alto. It's a MATTER OF PRIDE

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Posted by The truth will be awesome
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:36 pm

I can't wait for the investigation to be over. I can wait for the police to complete a well done and fair investigation. The truth will be awesome when the blind friends finally know what the police already know....the amazing people who did nothing more than work their butts off for the kids, looking for nothing in return, in reality have been stealing from the city and these same kids for many years! Of course when this all comes to light, all the friends will come together and say the police have framed them, and that's why the investigation took so long.

Oh I can't wait...the truth will be awesome.

Like this comment
Posted by litebug
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 22, 2008 at 11:23 pm

Well, "The truth will be awesome", it appears that you are in possession of much insider knowledge that has eluded the rest of the community. How special and important you must feel. I suppose we are all supposed to be highly impressed. Why don't you go to the press with your juicy tale? No matter what eventually comes out you can tell us that it was exactly as you knew all along. How handy for you that we'd have no way to verify your credibility. Since you prefer to keep all this alleged information to yourself now, don't expect us to believe you later.

Are you a cop on this case? If not, how could you know so many facts that no one else knows? Or are you (as I strongly suspect) just someone blowing a lot of smoke? I remain unimpressed. If you know something then either tell the community or shut up about it. Your little game is annoying and childish.

Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2008 at 9:01 am

"in reality have been stealing from the city and these same kids"

And this is any differant then what Frank,Gary and the city council and staff have been doing for how long?? But at a much higher level.
As in millions of dollars...

Like this comment
Posted by Ted
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 23, 2008 at 12:11 pm

See the news bulletin released last night - late- after sitting on it for a month.

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Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Ted, Do you think a report would ever have been released if not for all the CITIZENS wanting an answer?

How many times has this city tried to get away without saying anything? and they have.

The City Attorney{JOKE} tried to get all written communications/records changed to VERBAL how better to hide the truth and the facts????

Like this comment
Posted by End it Already
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2008 at 10:16 pm

This has been going on for to long! this whole investigation started at the beginning of feb. and its almost may.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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