The apology came a little more than a week after independent Police Auditor Michael Gennaco released his report cataloguing errors committed by the Palo Alto Police Department over the 11-month course of the investigation.
Gennaco said errors by investigators included ignoring exculpatory evidence and loading the police report with conjectures and biases.
Council members also apologized to former theater Director Pat Briggs and other targets of the investigation at its June 1 meeting. At that time, council members agreed to draft an official letter of apology, which Councilman Pat Burt read into the record Monday night:
"We, the City Council of Palo Alto, on behalf of the City of Palo Alto, formally apologize to Pat Briggs, Richard Curtis, Allison Williams, the family of Michael Litfin and the Friends of the Children's Theatre for the errors and injustices committed during the Palo Alto Police Department's investigation of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre," the letter stated.
"At the direction of City Council, the independent Palo Alto Police Auditor made a thorough review of police accusations and the claims made in the police investigation. The Auditor concluded that the investigation seriously violated proper police protocols and ignored extensive exonerating evidence. The auditor also noted that a number of financial management and reporting practices previously cited as symptomatic evidence of wrongdoing or ineffectiveness by the Children's Theatre staff and Friends of the Children's Theatre had received approvals or authorization by the city administration."
"With the Auditor's report as evidence, the Palo Alto City Council hereby repudiates the police investigation report. We direct staff to correct all public records related to the investigation to reflect the independent police auditor's finding that the conclusions of the police investigation report were without merit."
"We are sincerely sorry that you had to endure this investigation and all that accompanied it. We are working hard to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. And while we recognize that this apology will not be able to erase the emotional toll this has taken on you, it is our hope that it will begin to heal wounds and restore your well deserved reputation as dedicated servants of Palo Alto's children and our community."
Mayor Peter Drekmeier also praised Briggs for the way she handled the investigation, which was triggered by a robbery and a subsequent discovery of traveler's checks made out to theater employees. Briggs, who was in attendance, received a standing ovation from dozens of audience members inside the City Council Chambers.
"Perhaps this apology comes a little too late, but we really appreciate all you've done for our community," Drekmeier told Briggs. "And you've been a model of graciousness through the whole process and I think we learned a lot from you."
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