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Council may investigate theater investigations

Original post made on May 20, 2008

In an unconventional and controversial move, the Palo Alto City Council broke its silence on the Children's Theatre investigation Monday, asking dozens of questions and agreeing to hold a more complete discussion – and potentially call for an outside audit – at a later meeting.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 4:20 AM

Comments (55)

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Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2008 at 6:19 am

I applaud the members of our council for having the courage to ask these questions.

I only wish Mr. Benest was there to hear it.

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Posted by Bye Bye Briggs
a resident of Stanford
on May 20, 2008 at 6:36 am

Mayor Klein has demonstrated extremely unethical behavior with his council meeting shenanigans. Morton and Klein need to recuse themselves from any discussions regarding the Children's Theatre given their conflicts of interest.
Once again a vocal group has gotten the Council to do their bidding.

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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 20, 2008 at 7:03 am

Looks like John Barton is the only council member with any shred of ethical behavior left. I am not surprised by the actions of the veteran council members and I am disappointed in the new council members for joining this gross violation of proper conduct by the city council.
Once again, the city council ignores dealing with important matter sto pander to a small, vocal minority. Nothing new once again with the council.

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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 20, 2008 at 7:34 am

Council did exactly what they were supposed to do during "Council Comments" - they asked questions and offered comments. Would you guys want to impose a gag order on our Council just because they are raising difficult questions? Or are you concerned about staff privacy?

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Posted by Sean
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2008 at 7:38 am

There is nothing wrong with having an initial opportunity to air some of the concerns members of the community have had for months now. As for saying members of the council should recuse themselves, that is up to them depending on the issue at hand. If you look, the vote to open discussion on the subject was 7-2. So if you think they should have recused themselves, think of it as 5-2. Same result. This was not a vote to overturn any decisions, only to allow discussion.

I think there definitely is a need for a probe into this investigation. Unfortunately, there are two people that could shed more light than any others on the subject and one is not allowed to talk until the conclusion of the administrative investigation and the other who is really responsible for how the investigations were conducted is on vacation. I hope the council can set aside time to actually have a probe into the situation though maybe to assuage some people there should be a public meeting scheduled for a different night, dedicated to the issue.

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Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2008 at 7:41 am

Barton ethical?
No conflict of interest? Maybe not in Children's Theater, but what about all his apartment complexes with a few BMR units?

Does anyone know if Baum was giving advice to Benest through all of this?
Seems like he thinks he is running the city now.

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Posted by Council watcher
a resident of Monroe Park
on May 20, 2008 at 7:49 am

For those of you who think the council did nothing wrong:

"The move broached sensitive legal and ethical ground. State law forbids the council from discussing issues not included on a published agenda 72 hours in advance. And the investigation focused on three city employees, whose privacy is protected.

Council members usually relate information about conferences they attended or other boards they serve on during the "Council Comments" section.

City Attorney Gary Baum reluctantly approved the discussion, emphasizing council members should not violate the Brown Act, which forbids discussion on non-agendized items, or trespass beyond their roles as policymakers, not managers."

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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 20, 2008 at 7:50 am

I thought this would be a NEW council. The council has no business "looking into" the theater investigation. That's not their role! Once again, a small group has gotten it's way.

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Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2008 at 8:03 am

These council members are residents who care about our community and the citizens of this community. They have listened to many residents regarding this, and not just a small group.

Might I add, Larry Klein has more legal experience than Baum.

How long has Baum worked here, and where did he go to law school?

He has cost our city a lot a lot of money.

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Posted by Bye Bye Briggs
a resident of Stanford
on May 20, 2008 at 8:19 am

Long Term Resident--why attack Gary Baum?? Are you questioning, then, the city council's hiring of Baum? Larry Klein is a council member--he is not the city attorney. Baum is. Why does it matter where he went to law school?
His role is to advise the council on legal matters. He did that. There are state laws, inculding the Brown Act that must be adhered to. His job is to make sure that the council follows these laws
Looks like another attack by PACT supporters on anyone who dares to disagree with them regarding the PACT scandal.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2008 at 8:34 am

The City staff have to be accountable to someone. The council is an elected body of residents and it is proper for them to be concerned about what our employees (city staff) are doing. I have no idea if they are doing this in the "correct" manner, but I am applauding them for doing what they should be doing in this case, investigating those who may or may not have done something wrong. Any good company board would do the same.

Anyone criticising the council in this instance is only helping the cover-ups from continuing.

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Posted by Council watcher
a resident of Monroe Park
on May 20, 2008 at 8:43 am

Resident--you do have a point. However this needs to be done properly--not rushed onto the agenda at the last minute.
Also two members of the council have been very vocal in criticizing the investigation--the same two members may have a conflict of interest. this needs to be addressed before the council makes any moves.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2008 at 9:40 am

City Attorney Baum said Council should not go beyond its role as policymaker. But Council has another equally important role -- oversight. There are still too many unanswered questions regarding the CT investigation and only the council members can bring the answers to light.

Without invading any employee's privacy, they need to determine what led the city to this unfortunate situation, e.g., what procedures were violated, what policies should have been in place, what management attention was lacking and -- most important -- how to ensure it never happens again.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 20, 2008 at 9:47 am

How typical of Mayor Klein to move this non-agenda item forward so Council can discuss it. Yet the previous week he allowed a fully agendized item about the future of the Charleston/Arastradero corridor to be discussed after 11:00 PM.

An issue that important to south Palo Alto as the future of the Charleston/Arastradero corridor is left so late that residents have left the council chambers. This is a City Council that favors discussion of items impprtant to North PA but short changes those relating to South Palo Alto.

I applaud John Barton's for his action.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 20, 2008 at 9:52 am

Why not lift the gag order that has been forced unwillingly
on Briggs, Williams and Curtis?

Let them decide whether to protect their own privacy.

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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2008 at 10:06 am

For crying out loud people, these folks would be facing criminal charges had it not been for the statute of limitations. If charges were brought you all would be singing a different tune right now. The employees recommended for termination are NOT saints!

Welcome back Alison.

'Nuf said.

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Posted by C me around
a resident of Ventura
on May 20, 2008 at 10:15 am

Very interesting reading here.
Accountability issues???
Privacy issues??
WoW. I hope Pat Briggs is going to write a stage play about all this.
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. And we sure have a lot of that around Palo Alto....

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Posted by another Old Time Person
a resident of Community Center
on May 20, 2008 at 11:36 am

How ironic for any of the staff people to suddenly talk about "privacy rights" when the city administration has used the press to demonize the staff, never respecting their rights at all. Our system of government not only allows, but demands legislative oversight of any executive branch. The role of the Council is not to wash their hands of responsibility for what city employees do. They should certainly ask questions.. By not asking questions sooner, the Council has cost this City far more money than was ever in questions in the investigation.

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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 20, 2008 at 11:52 am

City Staff, Lynn Johnson and Detective Yore drove this investigation. If the city attorney had been doing his job, this investigation would have been thoughtfully conducted instead of turning into a fishing expedition.

Pat Burt's call for transparency was particularly appreciated. As facts come to light during the administrative investigation (these same facts that Johnson, Yore, Benest and Baum tried to hide), the healing will begin.

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Posted by Big Al
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2008 at 1:48 pm

talks abouts opening ups a cans of worms!

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2008 at 2:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Recuse now
a resident of Downtown North
on May 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Klein and Morton should recuse themselves. Period. They have a personal and financial stake in the outcome.

Are they going to? Not on your life. Not when they can grandstand. I suggest a recall if they keep it up.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm

The Council showed more intellectual integrity and political courage than seen in this town in a long time. May this signal the beginning of a new period of transparency and better community relations in the future.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 20, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Helping to rebuild trust in the community (sic) is a nebulous idea.

As PA citizens we are more interested in having the city managed in an efficient and effective manner, following the law. And that goes for city council action, too.

At this point, I think PACT should be disengaged from the taxpayer gravy train.

Thank you John Barton for following the law, I don't know you personally but you are clearly intelligent and I thank you for your service as a city council member.

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Posted by Katie Christman
a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2008 at 7:28 pm

I attended the Council meeting as did many Theater Supporters.

Also at the meeting were a contingency of citizens with family in Burma, whose plight it is pitious to watch. It felt good that they are using their free speech regarding something so important, and whether or not we as a city can or will take action, we as citizens are better informed and therefore better prepred to due so. Many nations' first immigrants to this country came for similar reasons, including some of the first, four hundred years ago.

It was interesting to catch a glimpse of how our city works by watching the presentation regarding studies for the Public Safety building. The city is definately persuing their stated agenda of engagement, and comments from a study group seem to help have come up with a plan for better use of city funds for a better building. Good Show.

Just a note to say that although Mr. Barton was justifiably concerned that 'something' out of order would be discussed during the council comments, Mayor Klein took ample time to practically grill the city attorney in advance and during to meeting to spell out exactly what is and is not permitted under the Brown Act. The council did not discuss anything during comments; each member had an opportunity to ask questions of the staff (What power do we have? What are the rules?) and make comments (I am frustrated). Questions asked by council members were not answered by council members but by their staff, therefore, no discussion between council members took place.

I was very glad to see a healthy representation from the 'over 50' crowd, I love being in a city where so many generations can be engaged in the same interests. This is encouraging to me as I seem to keep getting older myself.

According to the final speaker during the 'Oral Communications' section of the meeting, problems with receipts and travel reimbursements were addressed years ago and a careful system or policy put in place to avoid just such situations. But according to the speaker, only some of that many point plan has been implemented and with no system of accountability. This brings home the main concern I have regarding how this whole debacle has 'gone down', namely, if the city council sets the policy, what recourse do they have when there is seemingly no-one responsible for making sure policy is carried out. Wait, isn't that the City Manager's job?

If in fact there was or is a system or policy to handle just such situations, namely a set of procedures which involve clear steps for responding to any problems in this area. Apparently these were neglected or ignored by city management or Pat Briggs' current supervisor, so the policy has never been enforced or fully implemented. The City Council must have some ability to address this problem, or their power as 'policy setters' is seriously abbrogated.


p.s.I humbly request that 'anonymous' choose another pseudonym in case the real 'anonymous' shows up. How can we tell the difference?

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Posted by knowing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Kate says, "Wasn't it the City Manager's job?"

No, in fact it was Leon Kaplan's job. Both Kaplan and Briggs acted like it was none of the CM's business. In fact, the Childlren's Theater has long acted like an entitiy unto itself, happy to take the city's money but not deigning to act by its rules. Time to set them free!

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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2008 at 8:33 pm

It's good that freedom of speech reigns in america as in most of the developed world.
So why is it that I for one, do not feel I can express my opinion about PACT management without being insulted, bullied and called names?

That's why we are all anonymous. Because we do not want to be directly intimidated.
As Henry Ford allegedly said " Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black"
Apparently, the palo alto free speech approach is like that: you can state your opinion as long as it is like mine, otherwise I want you out of town because you are undeserving of this one. How's that for freedom of speech? Penalizing those with whom you disagree?

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Posted by Narnia
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Katie asks that anonymous should a different name in case the "appelation controlee'" anonymous appears. we don't need to know who the people are. These forums are about topics, not the writers... Anybody chooses whatever name they want just for reference, nothing else. anonymous is not copywrited. Let us not want to control people's opinions+ their names.

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Posted by Katie
a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Sorry, I am all for free speech, isn't that what this forum is for? I wasn't actually objecting to people using a moniker, I just think it very likely that particular name will be used by more than one person, making it difficult to hold a conversation.
"We" are not all anonymous, but we have the right to be.
I am not anonymous. My name is Katie Christman.

I am glad to hear all these different opinions, as I have stated many times. I do feel that sometimes people express not only opinions but as you stated, 'narnia', insults and innapropriate remarks they would never make if their names were known. This is the price we pay for freedom of speech, and I don't think it is overpriced. I am truly a bit perplexed at the ichor and bitterness express by some on this forum, as well as Joey who took the time to express his lack of interest (?), but I agree those too timid to share their identities probably wouldn't be able to join us then, which although much less annoying would really be a shame. This is why I still post, though some of my friends eschew it due to the tenor of some of the remarks...Freedom not to speak is also their right.



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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2008 at 10:22 pm

the only ones in these forums who can claim to define and act about what's insult and inappropriate are the editors. I think they excluded some of the remarks people (including you) made but the only ones they took off from my posts are the ones in response - they were by then a moot point. So, I feel quite good about my civility and suggest that we respectfully disagree.

Your remarks about my residency in Palo Alto where I arrived in 1983 were very hurtful.
I've lived in this town, I volunteered here and had my children here and had to see in writing that you whished me somewhere else, because I am not part of the adoring fans of dear leader Briggs and try to be a little objective and truthful. So much for freedom of speech....
I am hoping that with or without names every discussion will be done with decent manners and respect for the truth.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on May 21, 2008 at 7:46 am

Not one question about the Utilities Scandal at the time ..

The City Council is useless.

Better to keep the Children's Theater and get rid of the bums pretending to be Council Members.

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Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2008 at 11:43 am

Funny that once again, when something shows to be of QUESTION, by the time the CITY COUNCIL has looked into it. It has become a long drawn out ordeal. and the people behind it have left the city, well most of them.

The City Council seems to say over and over again that they can not do anything about what is going on?
If this is true? Why waste more money when they will not do anything about what they find??
Is that the same as good money after bad money, ir how does that go?

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Posted by Ted
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2008 at 1:00 pm

If the Children's Theatre were somehow thought of as being as important to the community as a fire station, there's no way Pat Briggs would be left out of its future.

She is the equivalent of being a battalion chief, someone who has more experience than anyone. Her expertise, recollections and ability to train the next battalion chief would be highly valued and would wildly cut down on the mistakes made by her eventual successor (and Michael Litfin's eventual successor) if she were there in place to help guide and advise.

Would anyone here on this forum fire the brightest firefighting mind in Palo Alto if they had spent more time saving lives and preventing property destruction then they did keeping current with the ever changing requirements from the city's accounting department?

it's too bad she wan't extending her hours past the 13 or 14 hour mark so that her office could look a little cleaner and that her files could be in perfect order, but it is nice to know that she didn't reach these goals at the expense of shortshrifting the benevolent
life lessons the kids often learned underneath that roof.

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Posted by Sonny
a resident of College Terrace
on May 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Working for the city is truly sad. One would think that being a city employee is a great career choice, but it's not. City employees prey upon each other, and, ultimately, the talented ones leave. Don't we all remember Frank's speech about how very few young
people go into public service? Is it any wonder why?

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Posted by city worker
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm


Unless you are a city worker, you don't know what you are talking about. I have worked for the the city of Palo Alto for 23 years and even though I have been on the receiving end of what I feel was unfair treatment,the pros outweigh the cons by a mile. It has put my children through college, provided medical care for my developmentally delayed child as well as the rest of my family and provided me with a level of income that allowed me to live comfortably. When we are hurt they rally around us like family, and when I have been called to task because of my mistakes, they have done so without holding it against me.

Fireman, don't run with this like you usually do because I know you, and although you were a good firefighter, you just couldn't work within the system. You're anger has taken you beyond rationality and you need to let bygons be bygons. Start the next chapter of your life and close this one. It just didn't work out for you and that's OK. Do something else that you are good at and be happy with yourself.

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Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Your system does not work so well. Don't run with it just take it?? I do not think so. Do as you are told and get the gift from the HIGHER ups in the City?
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I am trying to finish a chapter, Fairly, Not by just going away.
Let Bygons be bygons, simple to say when you are not the one getting it.
Money is the pro, the con is letting the citizens and other co worker get hosed, nice??

Read what you wrote again?? Think about it, I worked 20 years was driven to a mistake and then paid a far too high of a price.. So many have gotten a way with so much more and profited from it. Did not have to pay any price..

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Posted by Ferdinand II
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2008 at 10:07 pm

City Worker,

You're tenure doesn't have the same conditions of Pat Brigg's 40+ years.

I acknowledge the "perks" from working for the City..... And it's exactly the promise of those benefits that Pat has worked for for so long that make this persecution so egregious.

I commend you on your courage in speaking out and hope you aren't victimized....

The "perks" you speak of are often called the "Golden Handcuffs". While you are entitled to Social Security and Medicare, Pat is not. When she was hired the City promised to cover pension and healthcare for life and Pat is not eligible for either outside of the City's promise.

The "Golden Handcuffs" comes down to this: If Pat is fired, not only does she lose the PERS pension she contributed to for 40+ years, she can't get anything from Social Security, no health insurance from Medicare, not even any unemployment insurance....

The County DA showed this has nothing to do with "crime and justice", but I believe it has everything to do with "face saving" on the part of the CM, City Attorney and Police Chief.

My hope is that the City Council, through a thorough investigation, by a competent investigator reporting only to Council, will get to the bottom of this.

And if my "opinion" on this is proven out, I hope City Council will take action in like kind to the actions proposed for Pat and Rich.

Some times "eye-for-an-eye" justice is indicated, as it makes a deterent to future abuses.

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Posted by peter
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 21, 2008 at 10:44 pm

"State law forbids the council from discussing issues not included on a published agenda 72 hours in advance. And the investigation focused on three city employees, whose privacy is protected."

7 council members broke a state law. Why are they not held accountable as they want others to be?

Power corrupts. Apparently 7 council members are not immune from that disease.

Thank you John Barton and Sid Espinosa for maintaining your integrity.

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Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2008 at 9:14 am

Clearly Larry Klein plays by a different set of rules. He has been one of the most vocal supporters of the PACt even though he has a clear conflict of interest.
The rest of the council went along like sheep (with the exception of Barton) with his plan--probably either to appease the vocal, pro-PACT zealots or for an opportunity to grandstand (which the council does very well--little action to solve problems, but much grandstanding and self-congratulating)
Klein should resign as mayor and city council member immediately.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2008 at 9:29 am

Thanks Pat for welcoming me back.
Just a couple of things.
Pat Briggs, who should have passed the reigns of the directorship of the PACT a long time ago has a gracious exit from this mess, waiting for her: she can leave by agreement with the city. The usual wording to her exit should apply. The city thanks her, she praises the city and explains that she is pursuing other venues, etc, we all know the drill. She doesn't need to loose her pension at all. She can even save face by staying a few months ostensibly to welcome a new director.
But is what we see here that Briggs is not able to live without her attachment to PACT? Surely it's not the other way round because unless she claims immortality PACT is going to have to live without her. In other words, this looks to me like a control issue not just a management or artistic issue. Does Briggs realize how foolish it is to think of oneself as eternal...?

City council:
Whereas it's good to this discuss the police investigation that must be done totally within the law. I applaud councilmen Espinosa and Barton for their stand on non-agendized items last meeting. "The move broached sensitive legal and ethical ground". Skating too close to the edge of the Brown act gives as an idea how close to an ethical edge Mayor Klein and councilman Morton might behave in the Police audit. If they persist in not excusing themselves from the Police related audit, the credibility of City Council discussions on this matter will be helplessly compromised. They are an interested party: Morton has a most severe conflict of interest - the case of the fox being in charge of the chicken coop? According to this newspaper Morton is the accountant for the Friends of the Children's Theatre and the mayor served as the attorney for the administration of the late theater Assistant Director Michael Litfin's estate.
Does city council want to add to the PACT mess a little more?

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Posted by here we go again
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2008 at 11:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 22, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Instead of quoting the newspaper, (1) read the Brown Act, (2) read the city rules specifying exactly what can be done during Council Comments and (3) watch the entire Council mtg so you can speak intelligently as to what occurred. I think those who disagree can speak more intelligently if they have the facts and first hand knowledge.

During Council Comments, Council can raise questions and comment - they just can't discuss. If you were there on Monday, you would appreciate to what lengths the Council went to uphold the Brown Act. Barton gave an impassioned speech during which he disagreed. That doesn't make him right and the Council wrong. It just means he has the courage of his convictions - which I admire greatly - regardless what side he comes down on.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 22, 2008 at 8:39 pm


I said that Council was skirting too close to the edge of the Brown act and that is so true that the city attorney was reluctant to approve the questions and comments. I didn't say that they went against it, only that they were too close for comfort at least according to the city attorney and Barton too ( and many of us). It is important not to give the appearance of not wanting to take every step carefully and without undue rush. This is specially because Mayor Klein and councilman Morton who have a clear conflict of interest in this matter.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2008 at 9:16 am

Narnia, You are being very presumptive about Pat Brigg's motives to the point that it seems clear to the impartial that your desired conclusion arrived before any kind of fair and thorough analysis.

How can you judge her as having control issues when she hasn't even been allowed to speak on the subject?

How can you judge her as someone as someone who wishes to be eternal? There are dozens of people closer to the actual situation than you who feel the theatre needs HER, not the other way around and whether your actions are unwitting or not, you are putting a spin on this.

You wrote: Whereas it's good to this discuss the police investigation that must be done totally within the law. (sic)

Well, that's a bit of a strawman's argument as I think we all agree that the police investigation should indeed be done totally within the law. Who ever said otherwise?

With this statement, you have slyly alligned yourself with justice and used an unfair paintbrush to suggest that anyone who disagrees with you isn't.

Clever to be sure, but to anyone with an IQ over 120, it does seem kind of sketchy on your part.

I am neither pro nor con here, but it certainly does seem to me that you are operating within some sort of modus operandi that suggests character assassination and that you not only are utilizing some sort of Machiavallian techniques to pursue an agenda, but that you are even suggesting such tactics to Ms. Briggs (she can save face by...)

Just my observation here, but you really do seem to be someone who needs to be faceless with a personal issue or at least a secret agenda.

The only way to show the rest of us that you don't is to reveal your identity, but I think we all know that you can't afford to do that because it would potentially show us that you were much more than a parent who was once disgruntled a long time ago.

Basically, I think at least to the impartial people here, you severely lack credibility. I think you are someone who stands to gain by the void left by Pat Briggs, if you can indeed manage to oust her with your poison pen.

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2008 at 9:45 am

Well put Jack. Fireman Andrew Jentzsch.

Jack, Common sense, facts, substance seem to take a back seat here to personal gain and self service.
Lots of people who have never been there, will tell you how/what it is like to be there.

People speaking for the City Employee's. Who have never been one. Telling you how the Fire Department is run when they do not even know how many chief there are?

If one speaks of being fair, and open ... You will be placed on one side of the fence. Even if all you are calling for is fairness.

The PEN seems to be the TRUTH... in Palo Alto not facts or evidence.
Accountability is the BIGFOOT of Public Goverment here.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 11:16 am

Someone who in over more than 40 years of management never hinted of any intention to leave, doesn't ask the city to start a careful and exhaustive national search for a new director, doesn't have possible substitutes-in-waiting, is somebody who shows no intend to leave the position. If you read on this matter you will recognize a pattern common to those who stay too long time in executive positions.

To adoring fans wanting 47 years more of disorganization, hectic behavior, chaotic management as others had pointed out, I can only say what I say to my children: grow up. One day you are going to have to live without me. If I cared enough about you, if I passed along my experience without wanting to control what you make of it, you can indeed live without me. That's how I prepare you for life. That's dedication and love. I am not immortal.
Why is there a need on your part of insulting me or my IQ? This posts are not about me. Don't try to shift the issue. Despite what you claim to be my "low" IQ I can see you you can't refute the facts? 47 years and that's not enough? The issue is the PACT management, namely Briggs. Not me or you.
You say "Just my observation here, but you really do seem to be someone who needs to be faceless with a personal issue or at least a secret agenda"
I believe that you sign only "jack". aren't you faceless then?
I have no personal issue with any of the management in question and I haven't entered the PACT since 1986/87 ( I think it was "James and the giant peach " in the secret garden). I am a tax payer and a resident: the only personal part in this is that I think that city employees have to fulfill their duties and Briggs didn't. The other issue (40+ years of executive power) is what I'm focused on. Briggs put PACT on a bad spot with her management shenanigans at about 1 million dollars a year ( independently of what other people did). It's also personal in the sense that I have seen what does to institutions or countries to have a leader in power for almost 1/2 a century and I dislike it intensely. For good reason the US constitution doesn't permit presidents to have more than 2 consecutive terms. Absolute power corrupts.*

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Posted by Succesion Planning
a resident of Community Center
on May 23, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Pat Briggs did have a substitute-in-waiting named Michael Litfin.

He died a week after Pat Briggs was placed on administrative leave by City Manager Frank Benest who is an advocate of succession planning.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Substitutes in waiting is not your dear friends and co-workers. It is a list of possible hires and their CVs. Liftin's death of cancer is a warning that an institution like PACT cannot rely on one person, specially because it's small and because there was no guaranty that Liftin would replace Briggs . PACT is not a monarchy with anointed successors. Poor planing on Briggs part.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm


You are against anarchism (sic) of any kind, but yet you want people to follow a law that doesn't exist that has to do with term-limits on children theatre directors.

You're bordering on ageism here. As you might agree, imposing any kind of term limit on any job works against the concept of a meritocracy.
Term limits were not in place when FDR was in office.

Did that work out so poorly?

I'm not going to give you my real name because I think that you are a professional character assassin (and a bit unstable) and I am not going to put my children at risk unnecessarily. I really don't want you doing to me what you are doing to people you claim to have never even met.

narnia, you offer up topics with conspiracy theories and so, I will now offer one up to you as well.

You and the poster named pat are one in the same person.

The reason I believe this is because you two both agree on every single issue and yet neither of you use the upper case when signing your name. You are creating the illusion that people might actually agree with you.

Being that you have previously offered advice on how they should employ Machiavellian tendencies, it makes sense that you would have your alter-ego invite you back to the board. That's just your way, eh?

The questions I most want to ask you both is:

How can you judge Pat Briggs so effectively on second hand testimony and circumstantial evidence and why shouldn't that matter be left to the hundreds of people who have worked directly with her?

You were so wildly off-the-mark in stating that she didn't have a plan of succession that any reasonable person reading this would at least hope you have the decency to admit that you made a mistake in this regard.

Here's what we do know about you:

One) You choose to shame the dead and do so anonymously.

Two) You choose to shame those who can't answer for themselves.

Three) You advocate wisdom on a subject you have almost zero firsthand knowledge of being that you've never even worked in the world you're offering advice on.

My final question for you (and lower case pat) is this.

In lieu of Pat Briggs, who would you place in charge instead?

Would you recommend someone vastly inferior just to make a point
even if it would severely cripple the program and undermine the quality of the program for its many young students?

I fear that you would.

We know that no one proved that Pat did anything selfish and we know that the investigation into potential criminal charges was dropped.

Right? Do you get this? Do you understand this?

I think you have an end game in mind and that you're trying to work backwards from that.

Am I right?

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm

It's not a matter of term limits by law. But most institutional leaders move after the a period of several years. They do either by getting another job in another place or by getting a different role in the same place. This permits to rejuvenate the workings of institutions.

There are many many theater directors many better known than Briggs that could do her job (maybe differently, but equally well). Her position entails tenure and municipal employee protection. You know many theater directors who have that security?

The rest of your post is just more of the same fantasies. Stew on.
I think Briggs shouldn't be the theater director anymore. And I think that we don't need anymore reasons than the ones mentioned. And I will be saying it till I feel I need to.

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Posted by term limits in theatre?
a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Narnia, Your term limits idea in theatre and the arts is ridiculous. For a local example, look at Robert Kelley and the extremely successful TheatreWorks. He has been there since he founded TheatreWorks in 1970 and has been artistic director ever since. He has won award after award for his successes. Should he retire because he has been at its helm for over 30 years? And that is just one example.

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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 7:28 pm

term limits in theatre?
this is a complex matter that cannot be explained in just a few paragraphs.
You are talking about two very different things. Kelly founded the theater 38 years ago brought it to the outstanding level that it is today. Briggs is really not as well known as
Robert Kelley and the PACT doesn't have the scope, the fame or indeed the professionalism of TheaterWorks. TheaterWorks is an outstanding company. So, to begin with we are talking about very different venues and of a very different scale..But now let us look the at the rest.
Kobert Kelly is the artistic director (not the managing director) and the founder . The company stands on its own feet financially. The annual report is published on the web for all to see. The company has a strong educational component and the new works every season are an innovative development. As a non-profit company the enterprise is regulated by the law (and the IRS) and responds to its board. It is the board who decides the fate of its artistic director. Kelly is fully accountable to the board .
On the other hand PACT is a municipal department and because of that is accountable indirectly to taxpayers. So we have a say (not in an executive manner) but we do have the right to demand accountability.

Briggs who is the PACT director ( both managing and artistic) mangled the PACT finances.

It's not any of my business to tell the board of TheaterWorks Palo Alto whether or not to renew Kelly's contract ( I would in a heart beat). They are the sole judges. Kelly doesn't have secure employment. At the end of each contract the board approves a new contract or if they were to feel he wasn't performing no doubt he would be replaced. Briggs had no such contract renewing problems. Even if her performance is not stellar the city will have to employ her. In other words Briggs offers no accountability. That is why I said in one of my above posts that the position (Briggs position) should be assigned a renewable contract. So why is 47 too long ? Because Briggs has been without accountability for a long time and if we were to believe her supporters we shouldn't even ask her to account for funds. Her tenure is a problem. In a way palo altans perform indirectly the role of Board and judge her performance . We don't know where kelly will be in 11 years but no doubt he will have a board to see that he is in the right place (even though he is the founder)

If Robert Kelly for some reason is not the TheaterWorks director it is possible for the theater to go on without him without interruption despite the loss. So, the 38 years of Kelly are acceptable by definition-the TheaterWorks said so. If Pat Briggs had just been the artistic director, the judgement would be of a different kind. But she brought years of chaotic, extremely disorganized, financially irresponsibity and should have been terminated a long time ago.

If she wants to be the theater's artistic director only let her apply for that position (let's create the position). But I am not going to forget what brought us to this forum.

BTW, did Robert Kelly come out to support Briggs? Does anybody know?

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Posted by friend
a resident of Stanford
on May 23, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Kelley was at Michael Litfin's memorial.

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Posted by Ted
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2008 at 1:39 am

Narnia-----Are you able to find ANY fault with the system emanating from City Hall that enabled the accounting system at the Children's Theatre to go under investigation?

Do you feel that the investigation was handled with perfect competence in a manner that didn't waste a single dollar of taxpayer funds?

Something tells me that the investigation ended up being more expensive than the amount of supposedly embezzled money they were searching for--that I have come to understand never showed up in anyone's personal account.

I want to be on your side, but I am afraid that Jack has indeed succeeded in part with discrediting you--due to a bias you seem to be operating under.

Could you perhaps answer his questions?

It does, to be perfectly frank with you, feel like you are sidestepping some legitimate questions.

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Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2008 at 12:40 pm

The sidestep? In Palo Alto??? NO???

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