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Editorial: Time for some sanity on Children's Theatre

Original post made on Jul 1, 2008

A dark cloud hung over an otherwise joyful celebration of the Magic Castle outdoor stage complex's 10th birthday Friday evening that made the smoke from wildfires seem like a light haze.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (20)

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Posted by Marie
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Bravo, very well stated! I hope that the City officials will listen to your words of wisdom.

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Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2008 at 6:52 pm

And not a SINGLE word about making PACT a self-supported insitution?

This is just Bill Johnson run amok. I don't think I have seen a better example of the inner circle, in Palo Alto, circling the wagons.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 1, 2008 at 8:57 pm

I'm not a big fan of city-funded PACT, but I tend to agree with the editorial. This matter does seem to have spun bizarrely out of proportion. Mistakes were made, that much seems clear - it seems like there is plenty of blame to go around. Now we are on the edge of further polarization, acrimony, and plain old expense. And what's the point exactly?

It would be great if the city could show, somehow, that it can recall the ICBMs, extend the olive branch, and invite all involved employees and groups to settle the issue with some dignity. Do we have a someone in the city who can bring us down from the ledge? Council members? Anyone?

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Me Too,

Agree 100%. If there is any hope, I think it's with Jim Keene when he's CM in September.

But then, I'm not holding my breath.....

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Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Good thinking.

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Posted by A Boomer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2008 at 10:48 pm

There is an episode from the TV series that starred Jerry Seinfeld where he dealt with Mr. Bookman, the New York Library detective, around a book that Jerry may or may not have returned when he was in high school, and the consequences some years later.

Mr. Bookman acts like a film noir cop, lecturing and pontificating about the various implications of the book in question, and cutting Jerry no quarter around his responsbility for the matter. It turns out that Jerry did turn the book in, others were involved in its gone missing, and it all is very entertaining as a TV episode.

We have had Mr. Bookman (PAPD) at the heart of this matter, and it has taken a decidedly ugly turn. I have seen people get fired in places I have worked who have been provided a great deal of dignity in their leaving their positions by retiring, agreeing to take an exit package, etc. They have had to take the consequences of their inappropriate actions, but are also provided some dignity and some recognition for the contributions that were part of their time in the jobs they held. Such is not the case in the way this matter has been handled.

I am not in a position to make a judgment about whether these employees had to go as a result of their conduct, but they should not be leaving under such an heinous cloud. They are largely good folks who have done a great deal more good than bad, and the magnitude of their "crimes" seems to be getting much harsher punishment than is deserved.

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Posted by A PA Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 1, 2008 at 11:16 pm

A disgusting editorial by the Weakly. There are too many emotional statements and "allegations" without proof in the piece. We deserve better from a journalist.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2008 at 11:32 pm

What truly is remarkable about this whole thing is the outcry. The reason I use the word remarkable is because without Palo Alto Online, this could have been a small paragraph every now and then in one of the two weekly newspapers and only of notice to the PACT community and perhaps a few interested others. In fact, it is due to Town Square that this has blown so big and out of proportion.

In the age of the internet, we get information very quickly. This has been happening for some time. But, with the onset of PA online and Town Square, we have an immediate arena for not only getting the news, but commenting on the news, hearing other's comments and answering them back, sometimes not very politely, almost immediately. It is too easy in the heat of the moment to type in a little comment and then develop it, pressing submit without even editing the post.

A little of the blame of public reaction must go to the Weekly. If there was a time delay in the comments appearing, or the opportunity to submit and see the post in the final way it will look when posted (rather than this small comment box) and a second submit necessary, there may be chance to rethink our comments. As it is, I feel sure that many have posted without giving due thought to their comments and often with hindsight, may have tempered down their thoughts.

Notwithstanding all this, I think that public opinion is very strong on the side of the supporters, but that without Town Square, there may not have been the number of strongly spoken opponents, or perhaps not as many opponents at all. Still, it is good that many residents have found out more about PACT than they knew before and realised just where some of our tax dollars go.

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Posted by Power of the People
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 2, 2008 at 12:15 am

I will have to also add that this has been a VERY remarkable experience.
Without the outcry wrong people were getting blamed. I would like to take my hat off to the police investigator who while following the lead of traveller's checks - found abandoned in a U-Haul truck - tried to trace it and found out that the real owner was not the owner of them at all - it was all un-accounted for money !! And the investigation led to a lot lot more un-accounted for money.
After investigation started two of the city council member (!!), with close ties to the PACT, called it fowl and made it appear that it was police investigation that was at fault !! Rest of the council, for a very short time, chimed in. I was the outcry that led some of the council members to say they felt uncomfortable with the two council members' stand!
Gosh - I cannot believe that the council even started an investigation of the investigation.
The best move was by the police to put the investigation report online - for all to see. Had they not done so the council would have blamed the police and pushed the entire thing under the rug. It was the outcry that led to justice in this case.
I do not call this disproportionate as the previous poster puts it. It was most appropriate. The outcry even put the council to the truth test.

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Posted by She's No Saint
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2008 at 8:10 am

So we ignore the money that hasn't been returned, the repeated instances of double billings, the insubordination of continuing practices after being told to stop?
Why stop with a new job title and full pension? Obviously this editorial writer thinks Ms. Briggs should be cannonized.

Just because the police may have acted questionably doesn't mean that the investigated parties are free from blame. There were clear instances of criminal activity that simply occurred to long ago for criminal prosecution. That's what the D.A. concluded, not that no crimes had been committed.

Ignoring these facts destroys the credibility of this editorial.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2008 at 8:24 am


I do not call this disproportionate as the previous poster puts it. It was most appropriate.

Interesting comment. I agree that in the circumstances, the outcry was appropriate. I do however still say that this was blown out of proportion. The real reason that it was out of proportion is that those of us who knew absolutely nothing about the funding of our tax dollars towards PACT were outraged and rightly so. The fact that the police investigation was made so public for something which otherwise would have occurred without the outcry and perhaps made them act more transparently is the proportion to which I referred. Normally we allow the police to get on with crime solving knowing very little of the facts and indeed if the facts were so well known it may hamper the case. In actual fact in this particular case it appears that the public awareness of many of the facts may have helped the investigation rather than hampered it.

Maybe this is will become the norm in public investigations in the future and this will actually be more in proportion. Perhaps then I will agree with you that this is the proportion warranted.

Like this comment
Posted by Jim Curtis
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2008 at 2:52 pm

To the Editor PA Weekly.

Thank you for today's editorial.

We had almost lost hope in the local press. You have saved the day with a breath of fresh air and common sense. Once again you have shown why the Weekly does it better. If you can get all the players back on track at the same table and accomplish what you suggest--then all would be well above and below.

Thanks again please keep up the good word.

In May the Daily went off base and prompted the following comment. Which is just as valid today as it was then.

"To the Editor PA Daily.

Your Editorial of May 18, 2008 is factually wrong.

Where did this part of your editorial come from?

......The police probe did reveal that theater staff were using city funds without being required to submit receipts, violating a standard so basic it adds an element of absurdity to this strange saga.....

Have you read the entire police report? Or are you just quoting yourself when you published rumors that you now treat as facts?

Won't you or anyone else wait until all the reports are in and everyone on both sides has had a chance to state their case.

Innocent until proven guilty? Is that not the way you do things in Palo Alto anymore? What are the ground rules today?

The PACT staff is given a gag order and then not allowed to talk to any one. While the police are free to make statements to which there is no evidence--and the Daily prints unfounded rumors as fact and then lets anonymous bloggers make the most absurd and vile comments.

Statements are taken from supposed witnesses {?} and the accused, i.e., the staff, have no right to cross examine them. Does that sound like the way you would like yourself or your children to be treated?

We urge the PA Daily to retract the offhanded comments like …"The police probe did reveal that theater staff were using city funds without being required to submit receipts"

Are you not interested in the other side? Is that any way to run a newspaper? Is your purpose just to fan the flames? How about just reporting the verifiable facts. Could you do that?

Maybe the price for your paper is just right, And we really do get what we pay for.

Please take the high road and ask yourself and your readers to at least wait until all the facts are in and both sides have been heard before you start to run presses again.

You and your readers are of course entitled to your opinions. You are NOT entitled to your own facts.

From personal experience I can tell you that the PACT staff had a perfectly acceptable and city approved accounting system. There are no missing funds!
What did the Assistant DA say "There is no victim"! No victim--no crime. Even Andy Sipowitcz played by those rules.

If you knew Pat you would know that she never throws anything (I mean anything) away--much less receipts--and she has never tried to conceal anything from anybody.

If you are really interested in finding a resolution to this "Sad Saga" lets all get together after the gag rules have been lifted and go over the facts (yours and the real ones) one by one.

Sometimes where some people think they see smoke where there is no a fire--it is just somebody playing with matches. Who may if truth be-told just might--before this "Sad Saga" is done--get his fingers burned.

From a concerned parent; Jim Curtis posted June 1, 2008

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Posted by Bye Bye Briggs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2008 at 4:13 pm

As you say Mr Curtis you are entitled to your opinion and we are entitled to ours. Curtis and Briggs escaped prosecution and possible prison due to the statute of limitations, possible interference by city officials and stonewalling.
Curtis and Briggs were rightfully terminated. i actually hope that they do sue, so that can be cross-examined under oath to get the facts out into the open.
otherwise I say it is time to get over this and move on.

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Posted by Jim Curtis
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Dear Bye Bye,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This is a posting from June that could bring you into the real world. Do not reply until and unless you become brave enough to use your real name.

..."You are of course entitled to you own opinions but you are not entitled to your own FACTS.
It probably wont mean much to you but here are a few real facts you could consider before trying to send your betters to the gallows.

Fact #1:
On the 24th of Jan the city closed the PACT.

Fact #2
Between the 24th and 29th of Jan the Police removed Pat's and Mike's computers along with dozens of boxes of receipts and reports At the same time they spent 4 days and searched the theater thoroughly.

Fact #3:
On the 29th the theater was reopened and the Chief of Police publicly announced that the investigation at and of the theater grounds was completed. (i.e., No evidence was left on the premises)

Fact #4:
The Box Office computer left at the theater had been inspected by the Police and was left in place because all of the files on that computed were and still are "Archived" and "Read Only" meaning that they cannot be altered.

Fact #5
Mr. Curtis did not "fly" into the theater. And he did not break into the theater, He didn't even sneak into the theater. He went to the theater openly because he was asked to go there to help set up for Mr,Mitfin's memorial service which was scheduled for the 17th of Feb. (We missed you at that event. You should have been there you might-have gotten to know Mr. Curtis and began to understand why he and Pat have so many supporters. (Oh that's right "You don't care")

Fact #6:
Mr. Curtis was told on the 15th of Feb. that the Police had a question regarding a transaction in January 2003 (Got that 2003) On the morning of the 16th he found himself 10 feet away from the computer that contained the (unalterable) few pieces of paper that would respond to Sgt. Yore's confusion and questions, clear his name and hasten the completion of the police Investigation.

Fact #7
A few very young terrified 19 and 20 year old workers at the theater in an attempt to protect themselves concocted a story that made sure that no one could accuse them of adding or assisting their friend Mr. Curtis. So what did they do. Once they got their stories straight they called the Police. That's a normal response to seeing someone using a computer. Maybe for you narina but not many others. But why were these young people so afraid?

Fact #8:
Between the 24th of Jan and the 16th of Feb, there were 32 articles in newspapers from SF to San Jose regarding the PACT. Each of those newspaper articles referred to some of the PACT staff as crooks and embezzlers. Many of those articles included the mean spirited comments from that anonymous group of no-nothings [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Who would not be scared to death with such a climate of fear engulfing everyone and everything related to the PACT on the 16th of Feb. Must sound like the good old days to you.

Fact #9:
In May the District Attorney publicly announced that there no crimes committed at the PACT. No evidence of a crime, no victim of a crime, therefor no criminals or embezzlers at the PACT.

Fact #10.
They did find some $950 or so of requests for reimbursements during a 4 month period in 2003 that The Friends had paid twice to Pat. Not the City but the Friends. Pat offered to repay that amount but the Friends--knowing that Pat often pays for things for the theater out of her own pocket that she does not ask to be reimbursed for--turned her offer to repay down.

Fact #11:
The City has a policy of paying 30 year plus employees 127% (One hundred and twenty seven percent) of their highest pay grade. Because Pat did not retire 10 or 15 years ago she has forgone i.e., saved the City, somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000 in extra retirement pay because of her love of the Children's Theater. Now don't you think that that is one clever embezzler.

We could go on but that's enough for now.

Posted by Jim Curtis, a resident of Mountain View, on Jun 25, 2008 at 1:55 pm

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Posted by Bye Bye Briggs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Mr Curtis--thanks for posting your version of the "facts" (btw, I would like to see some prooff for the "facts" that you present--calling them "facts" does not make them facts"). as I said you are entitled to your opinion, I am entitled to mine,.
While that is the case, your comment, "Do not reply until and unless you become brave enough to use your real name." is out of line and uncalled for.
there are reasons why I am posting "anonymously"--most posts on this site are like that and that is within the rules of this forum.
I am sorry you do not agree with that policy, perhaps you should contact the people who run this forum and ask for a change in policy.

Like this comment
Posted by JIm Curtis
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Dearest Bye Bye,
Which "fact" do you dispute?
When, where and with whom do you want to meet to discuss it?

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Posted by Bye Bye Briggs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2008 at 6:09 am

Mr Curtis---Let's, for example, look at "fact" #7--you have mad ethis charge in at least two threads on this forum. Your proof?? Did they tell you they lied? Did you hear them lie?

Let me ask you about two facts:

Was Curtis told not to access the computer?
Did Curtis access the computer?

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Posted by Jim Curtis
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2008 at 7:57 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Bye Bye Briggs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2008 at 8:18 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 3, 2008 at 9:21 am

looks like it's time to lock this thread!

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