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Children's Theatre's Williams can return to work, Curtis is recommended for termination

Original post made on May 16, 2008

The day after potential criminal charges were dropped in the Palo Alto Children's Theatre investigation, a union spokesman has announced that Costume Supervisor Alison Williams will be allowed to return to work next week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 16, 2008, 12:00 PM

Comments (25)

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Posted by hmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm


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Posted by Rich should not be fired
a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Richard Curtis does not deserve this. He probably did not make the best decision by assessing his computer, however, this should be slight issue not worth firing someone over. Is Rich the sacrifical Lamb that Frank has to give up, to make himself feel he has justified himself by wasting "tens of Thousands of dollars" over.

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Posted by No more city funds for PACT
a resident of Stanford
on May 16, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I remember reading about the PACT staff member who had accessed his computer during the Litfin service, even though they were forbidden to do so. Is this why he is being terminated?
But he is working for a "beloved PA institution" and is working long hours and helping to train children--so it is okay. Let him keep his job.
this will give the friends of PACt something to do now that that there will be no charges against the staff

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Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2008 at 2:25 pm

From past news reports, there was clearly very poor management going on, though possibly not criminal. For the amount of public money that goes through this program, they deserve to have competent and responsible financial managers.

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Posted by Time#2
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2008 at 4:10 pm

This is vindictive Frank Benest at his worst. This is absolutely HIS decision. He retires with a big house bought with city funds, taxes paid with city funds a health care plan for life,
and on and on. Benest can't leave fast enough for a lot of people. This decision is disgusting. Fight it RIchard!!!

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Posted by Jim
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm

PACT should be taken off public funds. Only a fiasco like this can make this point, so convincingly. Some people are now trying to convince us taypayers to spend even *more* public funds to keep the public employees of PACT honest. Unbelievable!

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Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Richard, I hope continue fighting! I hope to see you back soon! Good luck!

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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 16, 2008 at 8:04 pm


Rest assured, the City has not seen the last of this --- or of you.

This was a typical chicken !@#$# thing of the City to do: release the bad news on a Friday when City Hall is closed! I'm amazed that those clowns think folks can't see through that trick.

Stay strong... We love you.

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Posted by Derek Wood
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2008 at 10:00 am

The abrupt guilty-until-proven-innocent treatment that Rich Curtis, Pat Briggs, Alison Williams and the late Michael Litfin have received from the city management and the police has been a palpable insult. Personally, it has pained me perhaps even more to see these old friends and mentors of mine pilloried publicly by craven, pseudonymous armchair prosecutors.

I have known Rich Curtis for more than 20 years. The guy has a heart as big as all outdoors. Whenever I've been in town these last many years and stopped back into the Children's Theatre, I've always looked forward to the unmistakable, jovial greeting I'd get from Rich: the crooked smile that erupts from has tanned face, the glint in his blue eyes, his outstretched hand ready to shake mine, and his trademark greeting "Heyhowyadoin'?"

The guy is as genuine as they come. Like all four of the maligned Children's Theatre staffers, his dedication to the welfare of the theatre is total and his work ethic is tireless. The guileful agent of graft that he has been tarred as could not be further from the man I know.

I'm tempted to urge Rich to not let the bastards get him down, to fight on till the last lie is extinguished. But this is only for Rich to decide. I wouldn't blame him if he didn't want to work for a city or a union that would hang him out to dry like this. If he doesn't, it will be the city's loss.

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Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2008 at 11:48 am

Friday, May 16, 2008, the day Frank Benest started a two-week vacation, it was announced that Richard Curtis is facing possible termination of employment with the City of Palo Alto.

The press release announcing that potential criminal charges would not be pursued against the Children's Theater employees was issued May 15, 2008, a week after Benest made public his vacation plans, and a day before Benest's vacation started.

Of course, there is no connection between the administrative investigation and the police investigation.

That would be wrong.

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Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2008 at 1:11 pm

As we can see from the quotation below, the friends of PACT are not interested in the truth or for things to be run smoothly:

"We applaud Chief Johnson's decision, at last, to call a halt to this investigation," said Paula Collins, president of the Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre. "The reputations of the suspended staff have been severely tarnished, perhaps irreparably. We urge the city manager to conclude the administrative probe rapidly and favorably, allowing the staff to return to their jobs where they belong and have been so sorely missed."

The only thing they are interested in is a favorable (to them) outcome of any investigation--which means the truth be damned and re-install the staff unto the pedestal from which they can be worshiped by all citizens of PA, since PACT is a "revered local institution" and the staff are all saints.

Entire story at:
Web Link

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Posted by Tm#2
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2008 at 3:00 pm

So Benest is 'retiring' with a sweet-heart deal of a retirement package at the end of June, and he goes off NOW on a two week vacation!! HE gave the order to terminate Richard Curtis. Is he such a coward that he can't face the outrage over this treatment of Richard? He can't face the Council or the public? The timing is just too convenient! If there is any fund to help Richard fight this, please publish the address. I've got my checkbook ready. I suggest the day that Benest retires and leaves (but he wiill still be on the taxpayers' dole forever and live in a taxpayer provided home) we have celebration parties all over Palo Alto!! Good riddance.

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Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Where is it stated that Benest gave the "order" to fire Curtis?
Sounds like more of the smoke screen being put out by Friends of PACT.
The Friends of PACT have for months being trying to smear the city manager, the city staff and the police.
Clearly when they put on a smear campaign it is okay, but if the city should even dare look at the people that they worship cross eyed, woe to them.

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Posted by Ferdinand II
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Perp walk,

When the City Manager initiates an investigation, he also OK's the disciplinary actions to be taken. Just like he did with Emily Harrison, remember?

Suggestion, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

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Posted by I am Not Associated with CTDF
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Tim#2 and other supporters,

The best chance Richard has to beat this termination is a good lawyer.

SEIU will do what they can, but their resources are limited.

Please contribute to the Children's Theater Legal Defense Fund:

Web Link

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Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Not in a hole --ferdinand II--PACt staff and their zealot supporters are. They have made it clear that there can only be one out come that they will accept--they are now in a corner--they have to continue to support the people who are guilty of malfeasance and misuse of city funds.
When the hearing occurs we will find out why Curtis is being terminated. Read a report that he used the PACT computers during Litfin's funeral service even though they were told not to. But the rules do not apply to the PACT staff--they are working for a "beloved city institution" and can do what they want, right Ferd II???

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Posted by Kenneth
a resident of Stanford
on May 17, 2008 at 5:47 pm

One must not throw the babies out with the bathwater.

The decision should come down to what is best for the children in the community.

A program with a successful track record of 75 years (or so)
of not only enriching the community but of its children
should not be cancelled over the somewhat minor circumstances
that have come to light, especially since no one will
be so much as indicted.

Whatever mistakes that were made by the police, by the city government or by the theatre staff should be learned from by those that end up having the torch passed to them so that the theatre can have
many productive years to come.

It's for the children folks!! (although it is true that I certainly appreciate living in what I hope continues to be an enlightened city where the arts are given a chance to live and breathe.

Should the theatre end up closing down, I for one will look to invest in a local stores that sell videogames, as that is likely one new avenue where all the unbridled creativity that children would have given to the theatre will instead, in part, be routed to.

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Posted by Ferdinand II
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Perp walk,

6 issues make up a perfect batting score of 1000. Criminal indictments for the 3 PACT staff, and administrative discipline for the staff. You struck out on the first 3, and one of the second 3. One call is in question, and it won't be decided until it's gone through a legal process, not a City administrative process. The last pitch of the game (Pat Briggs admin discipline) hasn't been thrown yet.

Seems to me you're batting all zeros at this point, but I do agree with the position you've taken since this thing began. That is, let the investigation play out to conclusion. We've got a long way to go before any administrative "recommendations" play out through the courts, and a new CM will most likely put an end to any administrative proceedings, but then, yes, lets go by your game plan and see what the new CM does.

On your second point: "When the hearing occurs we will find out why Curtis is being terminated", can I remind you of more recent City history.

When it plays to the City Attorney's agenda, then details will be released to the press, as they were for Emily Harrison, but in that case, City Attorney Baum was one of the people indicated in the harassment complaints. Do you suppose he might have a conflict of interest?

Then when it's a "crony", they have an investigation with an "oral" report specifically to preclude any public disclosures.

The day a new CM and new City Attorney release the details of the "crony" investigation is the day I might consider believing anything the City says.

Please don't feel depressed that this "investigation" (for lack of a better term) hasn't turned out the way you wanted. The City has a much larger shovel than you have, and they've been digging a lot longer.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Stop saying its for the children.

The truth is its for some children. Many children are not interested in theatre, it is not for them. Some children want to get involved in theatre, but they are continually overlooked as the same children time and again get the best roles and many just get a walk on role. It is not for these children either. It may be just that the more talented get the best roles which may not be a bad idea. But it may be that there are the in families and the outsiders and the in families get the lions share.

Anyway, as fair as it may or may not be.

It is for the lucky children. Not for all PA children.

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Posted by Perp walk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Ferdinand II---Seems there is a bit of cronyism at play to protect the PACT staff. 2 council members, with clear conflicts of interest, have been very vocal in their support of the PACT staff, while denigrating the investigation. one has to wonder if they have not applied pressure to terminate the investigation against the PACt staff.

I will agree with you, the handling of the Harrison affair was disgraceful and she should have been terminated. Benest should also have been givenb his walking papers a long time ago also. he has played our "city leaders" for his financial and persoanl advantage for years.

However, that is no excuse to not investigate the PACT staff and as you say we have a long way to go until this reaches it's conclusion. Unfortunately there is a vocal group, Friends of PACT or whatever they call themselves, who believe nothing should have been done about problems at PACT and things should have been left the way they are.

Once this issue is resolved the city needs to take a long hard look at whether the PACt should be subsidized with public money. According to what I have read on these threads many children's theatres around the country are not supported with public funds. Considering that some people trumpet the PACT as a great sucess for 75+ years one has towonder if the money could not be used for childen related items that are in need of more public support.

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Posted by Ferdinand II
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Perp walk,

Glad we can agree on some things.

I'll have more to say about the the "appearance" of conflict of interest with Council Member Barton and Mayor Klein once the administrative "recommendations" for Pat Briggs hit the press.....

As for the criminal investigation, PAPD simply didn't produce a case the DA would prosecute. If you have some evidence the "Friends of PACT" influenced the county DA, please let us know what that is.

We agree on Harrison and Benest, and having said that, I find it inconsistent that you would expect anything other than "more of the same" regarding any administrative process against any City employee.

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Posted by Ming
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 18, 2008 at 9:16 am


Every kid's program I've ever been involved in has faced complaints of favoritism - whether it's whose skating is judged more critically, who gets good parts, who is close to the teacher, whose art work graces the halls of PAUSD or who gets end of the year awards at the middle schools.

The important thing to remember is that thousands of NEW kids brought into Children's Theatre every year - including preschoolers in Second Saturday shows, campers in Playing Along, grade school kids in Outreach, and many many more. They are ALL very, very lucky kids.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 19, 2008 at 9:51 am

We have had no involvement whatsoever with PACT. We moved here in the later elementary school years. I am not aware of PACT coming to our elementary school to do any production. PACT has not impacted our children one way or the other. I think PACT should go on as a separate stand-alone non-profit like all the myriad of other groups around here. Why should we PA taxpayers give $1M per year to this one group?

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Posted by Info
a resident of College Terrace
on May 19, 2008 at 10:56 am

PACT goes to each elementary school every 3 years. If your kids didn't attend elementary school here until the upper grades they could have missed the rotation. There are 12 elementary schools so the 3 year rotation allows PACT to do 4 shows at the elementary schools each year. They also do a show with each Junior High every year which makes a total of 7 outreach shows a year. ALL kids who try-out for the outreach shows are cast which allows every child the opportunity to be a part of a theatre production with absolutely no cost to the child!

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Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on May 19, 2008 at 11:12 pm

I shudder and shake my head in disgust to think of all the kids who will remain withdrawn in their own little shells without the help of a program such as the Children's Theater....
THINK ABOUT IT........................

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

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