Pinocchio at the Junior Theater. "The student's father indicated that he had picked up the student that day, the student had not raised any issues with him..."
  • Pinocchio at the Junior Theater. "The student's father indicated that he had picked up the student that day, the student had not raised any issues with him..."
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A brouhaha is a public clamor over a critical matter. A foofaraw is a clamor over a petty matter. At Balboa Park's Junior Theatre, a group of parents and attendees believe there have been serious — perhaps even criminal — actions by the board of trustees and administration that began over an incident last year when the executive director allegedly grabbed and shook a teenage female cast member after charging unannounced into the girls' dressing room.

Board members and other parents authorized an investigation of the matter, proclaimed it an innocent one. The incident happened "offstage," they say.

The indignant group says the investigation was a whitewash and the board consists of a clique of long-time friends, including attorney Gil Cabrera, vice chair of the convention center board, and his wife Krista Cabrera, a lawyer.

Attorney Matt Valenti, head of the protesting group, will send a letter and a 110-page, detailed complaint to the mayor and council next week. He says that Jimmy Saba, executive director, is guilty of charging into the girls' dressing room and shaking the student. Two key employees, production manager Tony Cucuzzella and artistic director Rayme Sciaroni were fired after reporting the incident to the board, Valenti says.Two other key employees were victims of "targeted intimidation" for resisting the board on the matter, Valenti maintains.

The complaint charges numerous insiders with conflicts of interest, possible financial irregularities, and unethical behavior.

Cabrera refused to comment and asked that his name not be used in the Reader story. However, this is impossible since his name is all over the complaint which was sent to the state attorney general March 15 and also was sent recently to district attorney Bonnie Dumanis and city attorney Mara Elliott. He has been quoted in the media on the matter.

I will honor Cabrera's complaint not to be quoted. He pointed to a statement the organization made to the media last fall. It stated that a independent investigator concluded that Saba "did not act inappropriately." The statement referred to "false rumors" about the incident. Said the report, "The attorney that conducted the review interviewed all of the employees that had witnessed or heard about the incident and spoke to the student's father asking permission to speak with the student. The student's father indicated that he had picked up the student that day, the student had not raised any issues with him, and that he doubted "[the student] considered it a big deal."

One wonders, however, who wrote the trustees' statement. One sentence began "The employee placed their hand…" Another statement explained, "When the employee was done with this discussion, they were personally disappointed with themself…"

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ccozic April 30, 2017 @ 7:52 p.m.

As a father of children active in Junior Theatre for over a dozen years, I have seen not only numerous amazing, incredible productions, but witnessed first-hand the hundreds of hours of dedicated work put in by (and believe me!) not highly-paid staff workers to make Junior Theatre one of the best, if not the best, junior theatres in the entire country.

Now thanks to this selfish "in-crowd" of corrupt, devious, incompetent, retaliatory Board members (who may soon be facing a criminal investigation), those staff workers have been either fired or harassed into quitting. The result has been a domino-effect that has negatively affected the childrens' productions, JT's financial stability, and trust among the community.

What kind of an organization operates this way and expects to survive, let alone thrive? A house of cards, especially one built with a stacked deck and marked cards, will surely crumble. Shame on these board members who are invested in their own interests first, involved in illegal and unethical behavior, and who have tarnished the name of Junior Theatre. They must resign or be forced out, there is no other alternative, and be replaced with trustworthy individuals who will act in the interest of children and the community first.

Our mayor, city council members, and district/state attorney general must take positive action in restoring the reputation and well-being of our beloved S.D. Junior Theatre.


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 3:05 p.m.

Concerned2016: Agreed. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 30, 2017 @ 8:09 p.m.

ccozic: Yes, somebody must dig into how those two long-time staffers got fired after reporting the incident in the girls' dressing room. Saba apparently knew immediately that he had done something wrong, and reported it. No matter why those two staffers were fired, there has to be a clean report. The incident took place in the girls' dressing room. The so-called independent investigator said it took place "backstage." Sounds like a euphemism to me, but I would like to hear both sides. Best, Don Bauder


ccozic April 30, 2017 @ 8:21 p.m.

A not-so-clever, foolish attempt at a coverup of battery on a child, followed by a rubber-stamp "investigation" with NO witnesses interviewed, hmmmm. Suspicious? I'm sure Hon. Mayor Faulconer and Council would LOVE to hear those sordid tales. Forgot to mention, Saba must be replaced ASAP obviously.


Don Bauder April 30, 2017 @ 10:53 p.m.

ccozic: As happens in Washington D.C., it's the coverup that gets the crook, not the original crime. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner April 30, 2017 @ 10:49 p.m.

Mr Bauder,

Thank you for reporting on this. You're correct; there needs to be a full scale investigation, starting with financial reports or lack of them, self serving by board members, etc. The battery of a young girl by the executive director and the cover up is a result of much bigger problems at SDJT.

Thank you again, Linda Turner


Don Bauder April 30, 2017 @ 10:55 p.m.

Linda Turner: Your messages are persuasive. It appears there is something wrong there. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 30, 2017 @ 8:17 p.m.

Matt Valenti: I have read your letter and also your 110 page report. The other side should attempt to refute your examination if it can. Now, it seems to me, your enemies have only resorted to name-calling.

I know how these battles inside nonprofit organizations can cause havoc. I was on the board of San Diego Opera when Tito Capobianco abruptly departed. I was on the committee arranging his contract, which was a very generous one The board split was so wide and so hostile that many people never spoke to others again. I lost several friends over it,

More recently, I was a journalist covering the donnybrook over the proposed ending the opera's long-running history. I knew the people on both sides. I lost some friends over that one, too. Best, Don Bauder


Cindynelson May 2, 2017 @ 6:28 p.m.

Thank you so much Don for having the moral courage to cover this very important story! I am a parent of a child who was at JT and we will not be returning to that theater for classes, auditions or shoes as we no longer feel comfortable there. We don't trust the board of trustees at all and this issue needs to be looked into! How can this be happening? Is the board untouchable? Is there no justice? Why the silence? This smells of corruption and clearly the adults at JT have put themselves before the children. Shameful and scandalous!


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 8:55 p.m.

Cindynelson: Good for you. If you won't go back to the theater because you can't trust the board, you should let your views be known. You should write the board, explain your position, and demand a reply. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 30, 2017 @ 8:20 p.m.

Francia Cohen FX Mua: As an outsider, it certainly appears to me that some events have not been satisfactorily explained. This is not good for the children and doesn't help the adults, either.

I would like to hear from those on the other side --actually, those on both sides. Best, Don Bauder


RuthM April 30, 2017 @ 8:31 p.m.

Thanks to Don Bauder for picking up this important issue for the SD Reader! And to Matt Valenti for his diligent work! We can only hope that Junior Theater will now receive the support of the city's oversight in this matter. Too many blatant transgressions occurred for business to go on 'as usual".


Don Bauder April 30, 2017 @ 10:58 p.m.

RuthM: Matt Valenti has obviously dug deeply into this situation -- 110 pages worth. I would like to hear from the other side. Gil Cabrera told me no one from the board would speak. I hope that changes. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 30, 2017 @ 10:59 p.m.

Linda Turner: If you and others raise the roof, something may be done. Best, Don Bauder


jennvalenti May 1, 2017 @ 7:47 a.m.

It's interesting that Gil Cabrera wants to wash his hands (and name) of the events he helped to orchestrate at Junior Theatre. The community was told several times that we should trust the Board and trust JT's lawyer since he was representing Junior Theatre "pro bono".

Pro bono means more than free legal counsel. It means working "for the good". Concerned parents, donors, volunteers and children were told that everything was being done thoughtfully, carefully and with the organization and children as top priorities.

If this is true why will Mr. Cabrera refuse to speak? It is time for him to stand behind his actions and those of the Board whom he was overseeing.

If the Board and Mr. Cabrera continue to hide in silence people may be interested in contacting Edward Cramp, the managing partner at Duane Morris, who conducted the "independent investigation". He surely must be able to stand behind his work.

Mr, Cabrera has happy to use his name and stature to intimidate and silence those who dared question the Board. His silence now speaks volumes.

Our civic leaders must demand transparency from the Junior Theatre Board of Trustees and it's outside council.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 9:37 a.m.

jennvalenti: I didn't attempt to get to Cramp because Cabrera told me that nobody on the board or someone having worked for or siding with the board would talk. I would hope they will now express their views. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 9:39 a.m.

Mike Murphy: The board claims that the girl's father did nothing because the girl didn't bring up the subject, hence was probably not upset by it. Best, Don Bauder


MURPHYJUNK May 1, 2017 @ 12:28 p.m.

he must be aware of it by now. never too late to have a one on one chat with the guy.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 3:49 p.m.

Murphyjunk: Oh yes, The father must know by now. Did the current board get to the father and convince him that the incident was not important? Was the girl told not to tell anybody? I saw a TV interview with one girl who witnessed the event, and she was quite upset. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 1, 2017 @ 1:18 p.m.

Don: I don't know many youngsters who will run home and tell their parents they got in trouble at school, camp, Junior Theatre--fill in the blank. They hope Mom and/or Dad don't get a phone call reporting their behavior.

As one of the other JT employees was checking to see if she was injured, the young girl repeatedly apologized, fearing she was in trouble.

Plus when the father was notified, months later, he was told the incident occurred "backstage" not in the girls dressing room.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 3:53 p.m.

LindaTurner: I became quite suspicious when I read in Valenti's report that the purported "independent" investigator said the incident occurred "backstage," not in the girls' dressing room. I considered it a tipoff that the investigation was a whitewash, but if the other side will come forward, I would like to hear its views. Best, Don Bauder


JustWondering May 1, 2017 @ 12:25 p.m.

Believing our Mayor is going to do something about this is unlikely no matter how many pages are written about it. Our Mayor Faulconer has a well documented history of fence sitting or burying his head in the sand to avoid any possibility of being pinned down on any issue. In a recent incident the City Attorney's office even fought to quash a subpoena so he would not be deposed. They even settled a case out-of-court to avoid having him testify in open court. It could have been embarrassing for his future if something was part of a public record.

The allegation made in complaint are very troubling. Especially when innocent children can be, or are involved. In addition, there is also an allegation of a cover-up and possibly retaliatory termination(s). If true, then the possibly of more serious problems needs looking into.

I agree this matter should be thoroughly investigated by a disinterested third party with no connections whatsoever to San Diego's so-called elites who hold the reigns of power. Our Mayor and Council should withhold, in escrow, all taxpayers funding until this organization submits to and passes a full financial audit and receives a clean bill of administrative health.

However, I doubt our Mayor, as chief executive of the City, will actually do anything.


LindaTurner May 1, 2017 @ 1:09 p.m.

JustWondering--let's hope it doesn't get to the point of withholding funds. The future of SD Junior Theatre is at risk--it could lose its home.

I hope the Mayor and City Attorney's office take into consideration the safety and well being of the children of San Diego. How could this possibly be a black mark on their reputation?

If it means they need to take a closer look at those working under them, well then they should do so. The stench surrounding those on and involved with the SDJT Board is getting pretty strong.


JustWondering May 1, 2017 @ 1:42 p.m.

Sometimes withholding money is the only way to clean house IF that's what is needed. Isn't this what happened at the SD Opera? i.e. There was a need to clean house of those who used it to profit for themselves, rather than as a benefit to community culture.

While we are not sure about what's happening at SDJT, the bottom line is making sure the children are safe in their surroundings is paramount.

However, if this is merely a power struggle between adults, whose egos are clouding their judgement, then cleaning house of any and all sides may be the only way to save the program. Sadly, it's usually the adults who damage these programs, and typically over power and control issues.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 4:07 p.m.

JustWondering: In the case of San Diego Opera, a small group of powerful insiders abruptly wanted to end the organization's existence. Some courageous people such as Carol Lazier, David Kleinfeld, Nick Reveles, Pat Ford, and Courtney Coyle stepped in and spearheaded the rescue of the organization. I am not aware that the city withheld funds during the battle, although it is certainly possible. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 4 p.m.

Linda Turner: Absolutely. This must NOT get to the point that the city withholds funds from Junior Theatre. Maybe a neutral arbitrator should be hired to look into the entire incident. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 3:57 p.m.

JustWondering: I agree that the mayor is likely to sit on this report. He doesn't like to take a side in a dispute dividing the community -- at least, he waits until he thinks one side will win. He was sure wrong on the convadium!

However, the Junior Theatre gets money from the city. Therefore, somebody in local government must look into this. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 2, 2017 @ 4:08 p.m.

JustWondering: The mayor may want to look a bit more closely at the actions of attorney Gil Cabrera, the "pro bono" legal representative for the SD Junior Theatre Board of Trustees. Mr. Cabrera, whom is married to a SDJT Board member, sent a threatening email to a 15 yr old boy who started a Facebook page to rehire the two fired whistle blowers. Yes, you read that correctly; 15 years old. He threatened a minor, because this young man had the audacity to voice his concern over the firing of two much admired and highly regarded employees at Junior Theatre.

Mayor Faulconer may want to take a closer look at who is has standing next to him when in discussions regarding our Convention Center.


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 7:10 a.m.

LindaTurner: Browbeating a 15 year old boy? That is reprehensible. It's the first I have heard of that. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 9 p.m.

JustWondering: You see what the board's silence can do. It says it cannot discuss the dismissal of the two long-term employees because it can't reveal personnel matters. Therefore, some people will assume that the pair are guilty of doing something really reprehensible, when it appears likely that all they did was do their jobs as whistleblowers. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 7:07 a.m.

JustWondering: The mayor's instincts are to stick his head in the sand until someone lights his tail on fire. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 7:48 a.m.

JustWondering: The two terminations certainly look like retaliatory actions. People are justified in suspecting -- or even assuming -- that the terminations were retaliations aimed at whistleblowers. Until the board comes out publicly with intelligent explanations, people should assume that there were payoffs to the two whistleblowers, and the money came out of the theater's balance sheet.

Finally, until the board comes clean or appears to come clean, people should assume that the money did not come from an insurer. The reform group should be able to hire a forensic auditor to go over the books. At this point, it is a fair assumption that the money was basically stolen from the children and their parents.

The board's silence is deafening. Best, Don Bauder


swell May 1, 2017 @ 2:33 p.m.

Don: Brouhaha, foofaraw and donnybrook. My vocabulary is improving thanks to your generous sharing. Now if I could just find somewhere to use these elegant words...

Not to make light of this story. I see the parents and children several times a week at the Theatre. Sometimes early, sometimes late in the day. Sometimes to rehearse, sometimes to perform. I often think of them coming from Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla, Coronado; fighting the traffic, taking time off work, and all the preparation before and after these trips to the Park. Each performer represents a team of really dedicated supporters, a tremendous investment of time, money and energy. These are some of the parents and children that help make this America's Finest City. Note we also have the Junior Symphony and ballet students swarming the Park. We must treasure these remaining bits of culture that a few young people can still experience.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 4:16 p.m.

swell: I agree that Junior Theatre must continue with its city funding intact. It certainly appears that one side must not banish the other side. Some balanced investigations and delicate negotiations lie ahead. But peace -- perhaps a fairly fragile one -- must be restored.

The incident with the girl seemed to touch off the conflagration. But there have to have been pre-existing abrasions.

Oh yes. I explained brouhaha and foofaraw. Donnybrook is a name for annual Irish event famous for its brawls. Best, Don Bauder


Paola_V May 1, 2017 @ 3:25 p.m.

Other than making this a terrible experience for the children involved and their families, the Board of Trustees also caused two innocent people to lose their jobs?? This whole thing is so shameful. The following text is for context, taken from Mr. Valenti's documents that he shared in his Facebook comment above:

"Firing two of the whistleblowing staff members, and making a false police report of burglary against two others. The board engaged in a months-long campaign to intimidate and tamper with witnesses to the alleged child abuse by the executive director. (The SDPD quickly cleared these staff members of the false charge and determined the burglary report “unfounded.”)" ---


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 4:23 p.m.

Paola_V: I am glad you printed a portion of the report. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 2, 2017 @ 3:43 p.m.

Paola_V: When these two fine gentlemen were fired & immediately escorted out of Junior Theatre how do you think that looked to parents of children at JT? I know many individuals went to that very dark place, thinking the worst of these men.

I was very active as a volunteer at JT for almost a decade. I saw these men interact with both children and parents & sometimes adult patrons who were being rude to young crew members. They protected the children. Neither of these men would harm a child. The way they were fired & escorted out was meant to humiliate them & damage their reputation.

The theatre community is a very tight knit group. Can you see how their future in children's theatre was damaged? If they sued Junior Theatre it not only would hurt the institution they loved but also the children they cared about. What theatre company wants to hire a plaintiff suing another theatre company?

The children were left confused & afraid, looking to their parents for answers the parents didn't have. Some of the children who witnessed the assault in the dressing room haven't returned to JT. The children needed to be assured men who had mentored them, encouraged their creativity, had cared for and supported them were ok and didn't do anything wrong.

When individuals stepped forward to ask questions of the Board, the board moved the planned monthly board meeting to an undisclosed location. Attorney Gil Cabrera, the SDJT Board's "pro bono legal representative" and also husband of a board member, with less than 24 hours notice, in his downtown office (he didn't offer to validate), on the night of final dress rehearsal for the current production, when parents of the cast and crew are invited to see the performance and videotape their child's performance, at 5:00pm (most employed individuals work till 5:00pm) offered to meet with us.

I think he was shocked when a dozen individuals showed up. I noticed he became very uncomfortable when he realized he was facing an informed, educated, aware and prepared group of parents asking him pointed questions about the board's behavior. In fact, he recorded the meeting and assured us we would all receive a copy of the recording. To this date he has refused numerous requests for that recording.

During the meeting he tried to dodge a question, stating he wasn't sure if employees of Junior Theatre were mandated reporters. Several voices were raised at this comment insisting of course they are because they are working with children. He also stated he wasn't sure what was written in the SDJT by-laws. I asked him how he could possibly be legal counsel for SDJT if he hadn't read their by-laws. And then asked him to please stop insulting our intelligence with these ridiculous responses.

We asked him to remove himself from legal counsel for SDJT because of his conflict of interest. He responded with the same answer he gave to several questions, he would discuss it with the board.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 3:32 p.m.

Linda Turner: It is possible that the girl did not mention the incident to her father because she got the punishment for allegedly acting up, and didn't want her father to know. There could be other reasons, too. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 2, 2017 @ 2:36 p.m.

Mr Bauder: As a Mom, I know my son wouldn't have wanted me to know if he got in trouble at school or Junior Theatre, etc. because he would have been punished at home as well--of course not shaken or physically abused as was the case with this young girl. But it also should be known the children attending SDJT are told they are held accountable for their behavior. They can be asked to leave and not allowed to return. So this young girl may have been if fear of this happening. Her continuous apologizing and downplaying the incident to the staff member who checked on her well being and questioned her after the incident may be indicative of her fears of being thrown out of Junior Theatre.


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 4:41 p.m.

Linda Turner: You may have analyzed the behavior of the young lady who was shaken in the girls' changing room. She may well have feared being dismissed from the organization. Best, Don Bauder


Concerned2016 May 2, 2017 @ 3:55 p.m.

Question. Is firing whistle blowers in the state of California apply to non profit organizations


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 4:48 p.m.

Concerned2016: The treatment of whistleblowers is inconsistent. People are told they should blow the whistle at wrongdoing and then the whistleblowers wind up getting destroyed while the people who encouraged them cower in the background. I don't know how the law differs between private sector companies and nonprofit organizations. I do know that the state attorney general has a unit devoted completely to nonprofits. The documentation that Valenti sent to the state attorney general March 15 would have been sent to that unit specializing in nonprofits. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 3:42 p.m.

Amy Cohen Shaffer: The firing of the two long-time employees was not all that occurred. People who sided with the Valentis were given a rough time. Police were called by both sides. This is not the kind of activity young people should view adults engaging in.

I recall that when our sons (now almost 50) were playing soccer, there was some strikingly embarrassing behavior by parents. I recall that when I ran up and down the sideline with a flag, determining which side should get a ball that went out of bounds, I took a lot of heat from parents.

But these incidents were nothing compared with the battle at the Junior Theatre. Somebody has to come in and figure out how to solve this donnybrook. Perhaps the current board should resign, and the reformers should agree not to go on the board. Maybe a completely new board is what is needed. Best, Don Bauder


jennvalenti May 1, 2017 @ 4:13 p.m.

Don: I would like to make a quick correction to your comment. None of the concerned parents called the police at any time. Only the Board used the police and armed security gaurds against their critics.

I would also like to clarify that it was never just the Valenti's against the Board. We did become very involved but were responding to hundreds of concerned members of the community who signed a petition asking for a meeting, transparency or any information from the Board of Trustees.

I agree the Board and Mr. Saba should resign. I also agree that none of those involved in any way should be on the new board. We need a fresh start for JT with neutral, competent and caring board members.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 4:27 p.m.

jennvalenti: I will take your word for it that the reform group did not call the police. I apologize for having a weak memory.

I did not mean at any time to suggest that only the Valentis are fighting this battle. Of course there were many other members of the unhappy group. I think the responses to this blog item proves that. Best, Don Bauder


jennvalenti May 1, 2017 @ 5:51 p.m.

Don: There is a lot in that complaint. I can see how certain aspects may be confused. I really appreciate your taking the time to read it and report on this situation.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 9:34 p.m.

jennvalenti: Yes, the 110-page report is packed with information. However, there is no excuse for making the mistake that I did. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard May 1, 2017 @ 6:40 p.m.

I would focus on the youthful victim/plaintiff, her trauma should be the focus. It's possible that she doesn't want this fight, and might be more traumatized by the bizarre antics of those technically adult on her behalf than she was by the original incident. It would be best if the focus shifted away from her specific case, if she doesn't want this sort of Drama.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 9:39 p.m.

Psycholizard: Yes, but the young people are probably upset -- maybe traumatized -- about the battle between the two sides. Would grade school children be upset if the principal and a teacher had a verbal donnybrook in front of the class? You bet they would. Children are traumatized when their parents fight in a way that can be heard. And I am sure the young people were unhappy about the police and guard presence on occasions. Best, Don Bauder


SportsFan0000 May 1, 2017 @ 9:05 p.m.

Wow! What a complete mess! Had kids in Junior Theater when they were younger. Glad they are not in it now with all this stuff happening.


Don Bauder May 1, 2017 @ 9:42 p.m.

SportsFan0000: It is indeed a mess. And we have not heard from the board of trustees, other than a carefully crafted statement made months ago, and one off-the-record interview. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 4, 2017 @ 10:45 a.m.

Mr Bauder: Dont't hold your breath expecting any reply from Gil Cabrera or the SDJT Board. This is their MO--say nothing, ignore the requests, wait them out and they will just go away.

But as they now have found out, we didn't just "go away" but got organized. We aren't going away. The safety of children is at stake and until Jimmy Saba is removed from JT and the Board of Trustees are replaced we're going to be here.

They may want to take a look at how the recent protests around the country have gotten many who sat on the sidelines involved. When people find out the truth, they get upset and get involved.


suzanland May 2, 2017 @ 1:10 a.m.

Thanks to Mr.Bauder for reporting on this. Our family has attended many Junior Theatre productions, my daughter has participated in Junior Theatre classes, and as a local public school teacher I brought several classes on field trips to the theatre. This is indeed troubling news that needs more attention! The children of S.D. Junior Theatre, as well as the community in general deserve better than this. In his letter to the mayor and city council, Matt Valenti has done an extremely thorough job detailing the issues and problems that are tarnishing the reputation of such an important community organization. It sounds like accountability for the board is long overdue. These are our children we are talking about!! There is nothing as important as that, so YES, local politicians need to show concern and take action and the board members of the S.D. Junior Theatre need to be making smart and moral choices or be replaced.


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 6:32 a.m.

suzanland: It is clear from the posts on this blog that a number of parents and audience regulars are very upset by the firing of alleged whistleblowers, the mistreatment of others on the staff, and what appears to be a coverup. The current board must engage in some deep introspection about these incidents. Best, Don Bauder


Concerned2016 May 2, 2017 @ 2:57 p.m.

It's absolutely disgusting that a Board of professionals would bring in their friend to asdume the position of Executive Director at San Diego Junior Theatre. It's more disgusting this person had no fundraising, management or business skills. That's a red flag in its self. Then that very person does the horrific thing of grabbing a girl. Scaring a room full of girls? When my child was there, a mother was banned from green room duty because she walked into the boys dressing room unannounced. That same rule doesn't hold true to staff? Tony and rayme held their positions with SDJT for years. Their reputations speak for themselves and I can see them doing the right thing by reporting the EDs actions. The fact that no discipline was brought by the board and instead the people reporting it, were fired. That is clearly a case of whistle blowers. If that board were half as educated as they appear to be, then they would have know that is a crime in itself. How in the world can they justify the firing? Both let go on the same exact day? Suspicious much?? I for one find it very very suspicious. I'm no brain surgeon, but if I quacks like a duck. It seems that there was a division. Those for Saba. Those for Tony and rayme. Seems that those that were Tony and Rayme are no longer there. I heard that they accused 2 people of theft. That is just disgustingly vile. Especially the 2 people that were accused. Any one that knows those 2 girls know that is ridiculous. That seems criminal to me. The board is protecting their hand puppet Saba. This is out of a bad lifetime movie. The board should be so embarrassed. Especially someone like Gil Cabrera. Isn't he on the committee for the convention center expansion. How can he be trusted with that if he's in cahoots with this vile board? I sure as hell wouldn't trust him or vote for him based on this alone. If he can represents them in what seems a very livisious situation. I would not want him to have any say in my city!!! This board needs to resign. I'm glad my children were part of the Tony, Rayme, Teresa, Diane and Francia era. It will never been the same. The current board and Saba managed to dismantle an amazing theatre in a mere 3 years. GOOD JOB PEOPLE!!!!!!!!


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 4:26 p.m.

I saw it on a wall: I'd like to think this article clarified everything, but it didn't. We have to hear from the current board, which has refused to respond, other than citing a written statement from last fall. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 4:33 p.m.

Francia Cohen FX Mua: Your explanation is a cogent one and may clear up several things. I hope others read it.

As to your trouble getting on the blog, here are some addresses to send your problem to: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] I know the Belanger address is good, and I am sure she will be helpful. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 4:57 p.m.

Concerned2016: Your explanation is definitely eye-opening. I am interested that a mother was banned from the green room because she had burst into the boys' dressing room unannounced. This suggests that there is a definite policy on entering dressing rooms, as there should be. A paid administrator should be even more cognizant of such policies.

Young people do make noise. My wife and I raised two boys and now thoroughly enjoy two grandsons. We realize that behavior will not always be exemplary. The board and staff of a children's theater group should know this as well as anyone in our society. Best, Don Bauder


Formerstudent May 2, 2017 @ 7:17 p.m.

I was a student at JT for over 8 years. The first rule they always taught us was respect. Doesn't that same rule apply to Mr. Saba, the Board and Gil Cabrera?

They had so many opportunities to make good choices since the dressing room incident. They could have disciplined Mr. Saba (or let him go). They could have called CPS and let them handle it. Actually, they are mandated reporters and broke the law by refusing to call CPS.

However, since the dressing room incident the Board has made terrible decisions that did not keep the children's best interest in mind. They put themselves first at every turn.

If the Board is not there to protect the students when we need them, why are they there? They need to be held accountable!

Between a corrupt board, financial problems, and unsafe adults running the show, poor JT is wasting away. I feel so bad for the kids. I ask the Board and Mr. Saba to resign immediately. This is unacceptable!

Thank you to Don Bauder for having the courage to tell the truth.


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 9:07 p.m.

Formerstudent: I agree with you. Gil Cabrera and the board must come out with a statement stating why they did what they did. Now, the whole thing smacks of a coverup -- a coverup that will do long term damage to the theater. Congratulations to Valenti for doing his homework and getting it to the public. Best, Don Bauder


Chefkevin May 2, 2017 @ 8:21 p.m.

I am a concerned parent of a Junior Theater student. I am shocked at what I am learning. There needs to be a proper investigation. We are leaving JT and won't be back until it is cleaned up. The board has to answer and be accountable.


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 9:12 p.m.

Chefkevin: My guess is that the board made an agreement with the two dismissed employees that neither side could talk. My guess is that those two fired employees got some money -- called a settlement -- to agree to this arrangement. Who paid them, if that is the case? If it happened, did the money come out of theater funds? Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 3, 2017 @ 2:42 p.m.

Mr Bauder: Good question. Follow the money.


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 3:27 p.m.

Linda Turner: I have been doing investigative financial reporting for 53 years. I always "follow the money." Best, Don Buder


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 8:50 p.m.

Hope Justice: You are right that we don't know for sure if the two long-time employees were fired because they reported the incident. I am not sure that we know for sure that Saba should be fired, or should have been fired last year. You say that law enforcement will sort that out. We don't know that either. Valenti has sent the charges to a number of government agencies, but to our knowledge, none has come forward and taken on the case. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 2, 2017 @ 8:53 p.m.

Matt Valenti: You are correct. Even if law enforcement does not look into this matter, you have at least done your job by bringing it to public attention. You are to be congratulated. Best, Don Bauder


Interstellar_Sunflower May 3, 2017 @ 12:21 a.m.

Great job Don for covering this. The first word that came to my mind was shenanigans (secret or dishonest activities or maneuvering). It's amazing that the board and ED could be so out of touch that they think they can sweep this whole thing under the rug and it will go away. Their alleged tactics of intimidation, including firing people or charging them with burglary is outrageous, especially considering that one of their board is already convicted of fraud.

I have to wonder though why the SDPD was not involved earlier, other than to bar the Valenti's from going into the theater? If there is an allegation of child endangerment, why haven't the authorities followed up on this?

If these people really have been behaving this poorly, they need to be held accountable and a new board created, otherwise the kids and community of San Diego will ultimately suffer. That's the ultimate crime here. Thanks again Don.


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 7:28 a.m.

Interstellar_Sunflower: You are asking the right questions. The board is hiding behind its policy that it can't discuss personnel decisions. Most companies have such policies, but it raises a nagging question: Is the board concealing its own bad reasons for the firings? Too many people will think that the two who were fired had done something REALLY bad. Others logically suspect that the board is hiding the real reason: the two had reported the ugly incident.

It certainly appears that the firings and the banning of the Valentis were attempts by the board to beat down a group of dissidents. Is that true?

Then, what about the people who were harassed, but not fired, by the board? This must be explained.

Why did the board call the police on the Valentis? Why did the police conclude there was nothing there?

There are more questions. The board's silence will create more suspicions. Best, Don Bauder


Bobbi May 3, 2017 @ 4:19 a.m.

As a visitor to San Diego I had the pleasure of watching Junior Theatre in action. What a shame that bullying and intimidation has been allowed to happen in a place that should be safe for all involved! Physical discipline! Is that what we really want for the children? Firing those staff members that reported the incident? Why has this been allowed? Why are those in power silent? Do the people who have the power to make decisions for the Junior Theatre really have the best interests of theatre and the people of San Diego in their hearts? It seems the rainbow in all of this is parents who stand up for what is right and reporters who will write about it.


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 7:34 a.m.

Bobbi: Technically, the board hasn't been completely silent. It issued a carefully crafted statement last fall. According to Gil Cabrera, no one will speak now. People with questions should go back to that prior statement, now about six months old. This is unsatisfactory. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 2:16 p.m.

Sherri Nixon: Adults pulling what appears to be a coverup are certainly not role models for young students. We don't really know if it was a coverup, but we have to hear from the board. Best, Don Bauder


KourtneyReynolds2017 May 3, 2017 @ 2:22 p.m.

Thank you for your article and bringing light and focus to an incident that occurred at San Diego Junior Theatre. As a Director of a Non-Profit 501C3 that works with children, I am appalled at the SDJT Board Actions in regards to the incident. They have an obligation to protect the safety of staff, members and most importantly, the children as mandated reporters. Based on information available at this time, it appears they have chosen to protect their inner circle by fabricating that an independent investigation occurred when clearly that did not happen when there are contradictory reports and exclusion of key witnesses. I would like to see this issue revisited to bring more clarity and to ensure the best interest of the theatre are represented and not just the colluded few of the board. This matter must be reviewed more thoroughly to bring trust and compliance back to SDJT community so children, parents, staff, and patrons can feel safe and secure. Then hopefully the theatre can heal and thrive in an environment in which it was created to be.


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 3:17 p.m.

KourtneyReynolds2017: There is unanimity, at least on this blog, that there must be an objective investigation. Many more parents should be interviewed. When the report apparently described the incident as happening "backstage" when there is agreement it happened in the girls' dressing room, the so-called investigation is suspect on that aspect alone. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 3, 2017 @ 3:47 p.m.

KourtneyReynolds2017: First of all, thank you for want you do on behalf of the children you are helping. Thank you also for your interest and passionate support of our cause to protect the children at SDJT. My best, Linda


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 2:23 p.m.

Katelin Hardy: Possibly the individuals in San Diego government who allot money to the various arts groups could be the first persons to examine this event, the subsequent split between the board and some parents and attendees, the firing of two alleged whistleblowers, and the possible coverup. It certainly merits a fair hearing. It does not appear to me that the junior theater can go on without ironing out this battle. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 2:26 p.m.

Phoenix Webb Mua: Yes, an investigation is needed. Meanwhile, the Reader will be happy to hear from people on both sides of this issue. It certainly appears that this is not a blowup between the board and a tiny handful of parents. It is far bigger than that. Best, Don Bauder


onehundredtimes May 3, 2017 @ 2:50 p.m.

No matter how poorly behaved, or not, and young person was Saba clearly crossed the line once he went into the girls dressing area to confront the student. They very location of this confrontation should have set off alarm bells in the minds of not only the board, but of every reasonable adult in the know. Either his decision making abilities are considerably flawed or he lacks basic common sense. For two long term employees to be 'coincidentally' fired after complaining smells rotten. And for the investigator to fail to speak directly to the young woman involved is just sloppy. No minor is going to skip gleefully to their parent and admit to angering someone such much that they were confronted; everything the father knew was heresay and well after the fact. The fact this investigation was done by an attorney who didnt acknowledge this makes it even more questionable. Some smells.


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 3:25 p.m.

onehundredtimes; Yes, the incident smells, and Saba knew it right after he shook the girl. He admitted what he had done and was seemingly remorseful. But is that enough?

A big question revolves around the two people who were fired. We must know why. We must know if they got a monetary settlement. IF SO, WHERE DID MONEY COME FROM? Did it come from the theater's budget? If so, were the members and donors informed of where this money went? If there were payments and there were no explanations of where the money came from, then a housecleaning is in order. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 3, 2017 @ 2:59 p.m.

Mr Bauder: The San Diego Junior Theatre is a 501 C-3 non profit and as the attorney for the SDJT Board of Trustees, Gil Cabrera duties are to the non profit not to the board. Correct?

His position is he is representing the board "pro bono" but I think he may have missed the memo that "pro bono" not only means without pay but means "for the good"

I fail to understand how any of the actions taken by the SDJT Board under the legal guidance and perhaps design of Gil Cabrera --not reporting battery of a child as mandated reporters, covering up such battery, firing whistle blowers, intimidation and witness tampering of other JT employees and threatening a 15 year old student, is "for the good" or safety of the children at SDJT or "for the good" of the future of Junior Theatre.

If Gil Cabrera's actions are in the best interest of his wife, a SDJT Board of Trustees member, or other friends on the SDJT Board and not the 501 C-3 non profit, San Diego Junior Theatre, the California State Bar Association might want to take a close look at Mr. Cabrera's behavior.


skillingsworth May 3, 2017 @ 3:07 p.m.

Hm, it's both the crime AND the coverup, I think. Grabbing and shaking a girl in a dressing room is not only assault and an invasion of privacy, but also yet another example of how girls' and women's rights are routinely trampled by men in power who believe they can do whatever they want. To fire employees who reported this is unconscionable. To subsequently leverage a board membership stuffed with cronies to sweep the whole unsavory episode under the rug is a blatant disregard for ethics (and likely a violation of the bylaws of the board itself). Shame shame shame.


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 3:38 p.m.

skillingsworth: I agree with you, except the board's silence has interfered with our getting all the information we need. I agree the incident was misogynistic. Teachers are taught how to act in such situations. Long before the feminist movement, gentlemen were taught that girls and women deserved special treatment -- for one reason, because they lack the physical strength of men and boys.

I want to repeat something I have said before: The public must find out if the two men who were fired allegedly for being whistleblowers got a financial settlement. If so, members and donors must demand to know where the settlement money came from. Did it come from the theater budget, but was concealed? If so, there may have been violations of the law. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 3:46 p.m.

Ken Levy: You are right about the rich and powerful believing they are exempt from legal restrictions. Did you know that centuries ago in Italy, a member of the nobility could murder someone in broad daylight and never be touched by the law because those of noble birth could not be prosecuted? I'm sure that was true in other countries, too. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 3:53 p.m.

Linda Turner: You are correct that the person in charge had a responsibility to report the incident, to contact law enforcement if necessary, and to notify members and donors.

However, I do not know if Gil Cabrera was the one at that time who should have taken on those duties.

I do not believe that the incident with the girl was the ONLY event that stirred the dissident group. There had to be other differences smoldering below the surface. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 3, 2017 @ 8:38 p.m.

Mr Bauder: What initially stirred my interest was the firing of Tony and Rayme. I know both of these fine men. I had volunteered, chaired committees, chaired fund raisers at JT for over a decade, so I had the opportunity to see these men in action and get to know them personally.

Tony was widely regarded as the backbone of JT. He was the first one there & often the last to leave. If you needed to find, fix, manage, handle (fill in the blank) something, the answer you often heard was, "Ask Tony."

I watched Rayme work with young children & teens & I witnessed the admiration & respect in the faces & in the voices of those children.

The way these men were fired & escorted out of the building like common criminals was meant to make them appear guilty of some horrendous crime & ruin their reputation. I knew in my heart there was something very, very bad going on at JT. It didn't take long for truth to get out.

I spoke out on Facebook stating I was withdrawing my financial support & would no longer be volunteering my time at Junior Theatre until Jimmy Saba was removed from Junior Theatre and the complete SDJT Board of Trustees resigned. It didn't take long until the IM's and phone calls started coming my way. People in the know & those quite concerned asking what they could do to help.

The SDJT Board of Trustees sent a message to anyone else thinking of speaking up.

Gil Cabrera was involved early on. He sent a very intimidating email to a 15 year old JT student demanding he remove the Facebook page he began asking for the SDJT Board of Trustees to reconsider & rehire Tony & Rayme. He sent a cease & desist letter to another JT employee & witness when she continued to voice her concern of the firing of Tony & Rayme.

When that didn't work, the president of the SDJT Board filed a complaint with the SDPD accusing this employee & another of theft of JT property. They were both cleared by the SDPD stating the accusation was unfounded & a waste of the police departments time.

My question is how were Gil Cabrera's actions in the best interest of the non profit Junior Theatre? It looks a lot like his actions & legal guidance were in the best interest in covering up the lack of mandated reporting & the firing of two highly regarded, long term employees because they were whistleblowers.

The Mayor's office & the District Attorney's office needs to follow the money. If the fired individuals were paid a settlement, where did the money come from? SDJT receives funding from both the City & the County of SD. These are tax payer dollars. As a tax payer I'd like to know if my funds were used to silence & cover up the actions of Jimmy Saba.


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 12:56 p.m.

Linda Turner: Only a government entity can send a cease and desist order to a person. I suspect the writer was using the terms liberally. Sending a threatening letter to a 15-year old is extremely unwise. I can see sending such a letter to one's 15-year old son or nephew as part of a disciplinary procedure, but to send such a letter to a young man at a youth theater seems completely out of line to me. Best, Don Bauder


EngineerBella May 3, 2017 @ 5:05 p.m.

Is a more in-depth article forthcoming? I, for one, would like to learn more about what's in the complaint, and what has happened on the official end of things since it was filed with the various public attorneys in March. Various kids in our family and in friends' families have taken classes or performed with JT and we've always enjoyed our experience there, but I have to say that with this extremely questionable response to a self-reported incident, I do not feel safe with any child I know returning to JT until the board is fully investigated and, if appropriate, replaced.


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 8:21 p.m.

EngineerBella: Yes, it is possible I will do another piece on this, digging more deeply into the Valenti allegations. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 3, 2017 @ 8:17 p.m.

Doris J. Valenti: I don't know whether this is true or not but I am figuring it may be based on more than 50 years of investigative financial journalism: I think the two whistleblowers who got fired got a monetary settlement. Both sides agreed there would be no public discussion. The board took the money out of the theater's balance sheet and thought no one would be the wiser. Now people are demanding to know what happened and the board is locked into its prior commitments. I would not be surprised if the books have been doctored to cover up the money removal.

In short, it is time for the board to resign. Again, I may be wrong on this. Best, Don Bauder


LindaTurner May 3, 2017 @ 8:47 p.m.

Mr Bauder: Let's just look at the BIG PICTURE. What happens when Jimmy Saba harms another child at Junior Theatre and this time the parents don't quietly go on with their lives but sue and in doing so find that the SDJT Board of Trustees failed to report & remove him for a prior offense? Can you imagine all the defendants involved? SDJT, City of San Diego, SDJT Board of Trustees, Gil Cabrera, Edward Cramp and the office of Duane Morris & probably many more. It will most likely be the end of Junior Theatre, the longest running childrens theatre in the nation.

All we are asking is the removal of Jimmy Saba and the resignations of all the SDJT Board of Trustees to ensure the safety of the children attending Junior Theatre and to ensure the future of SDJT.

Also let me emphasize: None of us has any interest in or aspirations of becoming members of the SDJT Board of Trustees. But we are actively brainstorming and seeking qualified, non JT alumni and non JT parent, individuals to replace the current board.


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 7:20 a.m.

Llnda Turner: Yes, as long as this issue remains unsettled, the next similar incident could lead to a real battle. Best, Don Bauder


EdnaM May 4, 2017 @ 8:50 a.m.

I am so very disappointed to learn of the things going on at JT. I have been a donor and supporter of SDJT for years now. My granddaughter has been in many shows over the years. I cannot in good conscience continue to support this company until a THOROUGH and COMPLETE investigation into this has been completed. I applaud the people who are standing up and demanding the same thing. Edna Montalvo


LindaTurner May 4, 2017 @ 11:07 a.m.

EdnaM: Thank you for your past support for Junior Theatre. But please withhold it until some major changes have occurred. It's not a safe place for your granddaughter right now.

Please place a phone call to the mayor (619-236-6330) and the district attorney (619-531-4040) and ask them to give this their attention.

My best, Linda Turner


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 12:47 p.m.

EdnaM: Personally, I do not support donors refusing to put more money in the pot until the situation is fully revealed. One reason is that the situation may never be revealed. If enough people quit donating, permanent damage will be done. Young people who didn't sign up until after the conflagration will be punished. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan May 4, 2017 @ 10:02 a.m.

Classes for teens at ? Seems to me this teen girl is in deed in need of a change. Possibly smarter than all the adults around. Eye-rolling visionary? 'Mentors" around kids need soft temperament, especially with teen age. Should know never lay a hand on someone else's child, especially not aggressively. Wonder what Sabra's job was before he came to JT, pool hall manager? Use your words man!


LindaTurner May 4, 2017 @ 11:13 a.m.

shirleyberan: Oh he used his words alright. "DON'T MOCK ME!" screamed into the face of a young lady while he shock her.

Understandably, she hasn't returned to Junior Theatre. But I hope she sees your post and continues to be involved in theatre.

Best, Linda Turner


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 1:38 p.m.

LilndaTurner: The girl refuses to come back to the theater? Aha! People are spreading the tale that the girl's father didn't consider the incident very important. If she refuses to return, it was important to her. Best, Don bauder


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 1:46 p.m.

Shirleyberan: Bursting into the girls' dressing room, grabbing a girl's shoulders , shaking her and shouting, "Don't Mock Me!" sounds to me like an executive director whose psychological profile is not fit for managing a group of children. Best Don Bauder


JTParent May 4, 2017 @ 10:24 a.m.

Thanks to the JT oversight group for creating this comprehensive report in an attempt to hold the board members accountable for their actions. As a JT family, we were devastated to lose highly respected staff members who I always felt safe leaving my children with. As a teacher, I believe that all people working with and round children should have appropriate background checks, education, and should be required to take state mandated reporter trainings. Mandated reporters must report any suspected instance of child abuse, which was obviously warranted in this case. Staff should know the procedure for reporting directly and anonymously, which is especially important in cases like this were the suspect is in a position of authority.

JT has not been the same since this episode. I am saddened to learn how severely mismanaged the program is under the hands of the current board. Junior Theater needs an overhaul of management to return it to the thriving program it once was.


LindaTurner May 4, 2017 @ 11:23 a.m.

JTParent: JT employees are presented with a handbook and expected to read it. The executive director (Jimmy Saba), hired by the board of trustees is responsible for training of employees.

When I was in the corporate world we had monthly training meetings and at least quarterly we were trained in mandated reporting of child and elder abuse.

This should be standard procedure for an institution in the care of children. I spoke with several long term employees (over a decade of employment) at JT and they NEVER had any training in mandated reporting. NONE AT ALL.

Another indication of the lack of qualifications of the current executive director and board of trustees.


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 8:09 a.m.

LindaTurner: Linda, you are so right. Saba should have gone through such training. Either he did and didn't follow the rules, or didn't attend such training. Cabrera should be fully aware of such training. So should the board, and it should have taken the breaking of standard conventions dealing with children into account when it made its decision. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 4, 2017 @ 2 p.m.

TJparent; I agree that those who deal with children should be required to take classes in handling the young. I don't know if the state has such classes, but something should be available. Grade school teachers have to learn how to conduct themselves around young people.

When I was in high school in the early 1950s, a big, burly physics teacher, former the football coach, blew up at boys in the class and shouted that he would take on any of them physically. I don't know what happened -- he continued teaching -- but the news sure spread quickly around the school and the town. Best, Don Bauder


ColleenB May 4, 2017 @ 2:17 p.m.

Thank you for writing this article to help bring attention to the situation at Junior Theatre. There are a few points I'd like to make in regards to some of the comments, as a parent of a former JT student.

First, as pointed out earlier, the students at JT are held to a very high standard. Not only is it made clear they are accountable, but all students and their parents in any production sign a contract in regards to this. It is definitely made very clear if there are major problems, they could be removed from the production and possible future involvement. The reason I'm reiterating this is that Jimmy Saba is pretty much the highest authority figure in the theatre. Considering he is the one who had committed the offense, and in anger, there is a definite intimidation factor at the outset. The age range of students is from 8-18 years. The oldest student in that production was 15.

Another, related, thing I would like to point out from comments last fall when this was being discovered is that not only was the parent of the student who had been grabbed not informed, but very few, if any of the parents of the other students informed. This, again, can be viewed as being worried about getting in trouble. To add to this, after parents found out, there were very few who were wiling to speak up after Tony and Rayme were fired. The reason most often given by (I believe) most of them was that they were concerned that it would affect their children's ability to participate at JT in the future. JT has been considered the best youth theatre program in the area, and people did not want to have that taken away. Those who did speak up had to actively consider if they felt it was more important to speak to the truth, knowing it would likely cause the student to be blacklisted. There was no overt threat of such, but seeing how the board had handled things thus far, something like that would be a minor inconvenience for them.

During the meeting between Gil Cabrerra and concerned parents, there was a point brought up that not only was the student who was grabbed a victim, but every student in that dressing room was, as well. It was a very disturbing and volatile situation for everyone in that dressing room.


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 8:18 a.m.

ColleenB: You hit the nail on the head. The fact that few parents, when learning about the situation, came forward to protest is quite disheartening. Their motivation was, apparently, that they thought that a public discourse on the incident would hurt the theater. I would hope that now they realize that that stance was an unwise one. Silence has hurt the theater even more. Hushing up wrongdoing is almost always an unwise step, but it is done all the time. Best, Don Bauder


jennvalenti May 5, 2017 @ 8:57 p.m.

Don: Many parents felt (and continue to feel) afraid to speak up because doing so may have gotten their child blacklisted from the theater. JT was such a wonderful experience for many children. They did not want to take that away from their child. I know very few who were willing to take a stand. When we spoke out we were greeted by police, armed gaurds and banned from the building. We were used as examples so other parents would know what to expect if they spoke out against the Board. Best, Jenn


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 10:19 a.m.

Carolyn Miller: If the board does not come clean, and does not launch a really neutral investigation, then, yes, board resignations are in order. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 10:23 a.m.

Doris J. Valenti: Yes, if this board does not credibly investigate this and make the findings available to all those involved with the theater -- and possibly to the public -- then it is the board and its attorneys who are the weak ones. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 10:24 a.m.

Abi Graham; Yes, a thorough investigation SOON is in order. Best, Don Bauder


carrington May 5, 2017 @ 1:19 p.m.

What a morning read! PR nightmare for most non-profits but I guess this particular organization thinks they're immune. This story should be making headlines, it's corruption at it's best. I know very little about the organization, sure I've taken my kids to shows there 10-12 years ago and I do know they take up valuable CITY space in precious Balboa Park and they should absolutely be ashamed of themselves for the way this was handled. Shame on James Saba and the Board for making any attempt to hold themselves accountable. Can someone answer a simple question? Was James Saba put on a leave of absence while the investigation was conducted? Were all the girls interviewed? If the answer to either of these questions is NO, James Saba needs to resign. Mr. Valenti, kudos to you for putting yourself on the line with the complaint. I did read it and plan to go over it again this weekend. If someone, anyone, mentor, teacher, spouse, ANYONE, had put their hands on my child out of anger, they'd 1) have their day in court and 2) never be allowed to work with children again, EVER.

Gil Cabrera, it's a little late to be silent on the issue. "No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power."

The separate issue here is the financial state of the organization. Looks like James Saba has been around just long enough to deplete any cash reserves the organization had and now it's time to point the finger at the one who is most responsible for the financial security of the organization. Yep, Mr. James Saba. Hey, who hired this guy anyway? Oh that's right, his friends did! Mr. Saba, I bet you wish you were more than an actor with small IMBD tv credits to your name right about now.

Again, James Saba, shame on you. Looks like your friends can only protect you for so long. Such a sad story for a children's organization with such a deep history.

Thanks, Mr. Bauder, I hope you plan on following up with this story, I'll be following.


ColleenB May 5, 2017 @ 3:14 p.m.

In answer to your questions: 1) No, James Saba was NOT put on any leave, and the "investigation" didn't happen until months after the incident.

2) NONE of the girls were interviewed. To this day, except for an interview with Itica Milanes, there have yet to be any interviews by professionals of any of the students present.


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 3:44 p.m.

ColleenB: Many thanks for the fast answers to questions raised by carrington. I still think there may have been a lot of discontent among parents and audience members if there was no investigation until several months after the incident. Others have said there was much unhappiness about the firing of the two whistleblowers.

Do you believe there was discontent roiling underground before the shaking incident occurred and the whistleblowers were fired? If so, please make a post on that. Best, Don Bauder


ColleenB May 5, 2017 @ 4:24 p.m.

Don Bauder: No worries. As far as I know, there was not discontent prior to the firings. Some had noticed stress from James Saba during Goodnight Moon and Sweeney Todd. To my knowledge, few of the parents of students who were present during the incident were aware of it until after Tony and Rayme were fired.

In my opinion, the firings and lack of communications were the catalysts for looking further into goings on at the theatre. Tony and Rayme always looked out for the well-being of the students. After they were no longer there, the feelings of family and security were gone. The theatre were also unprepared for the holes left by the 2 employees no longer being there. As we dug deeper into recent(at the time) events, we found more and more wrong. I was personally outraged to find out about the dressing room, as my child was present when it happened, and that was the first I had heard of it.

I hope that answers your questions, but if you need clarification, please let me know.


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 8:10 p.m.

ColleenB: That is fascinating. I hypothesized that there had to be some lambent friction among a number of people for there to be such a blowup. But it is certainly possible that few parents were aware of Saba's unfortunate behavior until the two whistleblowers were fired, and then the complaints and queries poured in. This is something that I must look into. Many thanks. Don Bauder


jennvalenti May 5, 2017 @ 7:54 p.m.

Don: As long time parents of JT kids, Matt and I never had any doubts about the management of the program or safety of our kids before the Fall of 2016.

That is why it was so shocking and unnerving to see what was really going on behind the scenes once we were forced to take a close look. We honestly didn't even know who the board members were before any of this happened. We brought our kids to classes, rehearsals and shows. We volunteered hundreds of hours over the years. Everything seemed to be fine.

Looking at page 20 of the complaint you will see that serious financial issues became apparent to staff soon before Mr. Saba's alleged battery against the child occurred. A staff meeting was held to explain that the Communications Director's hours would be cut in half, and deep cuts of up to 20% across the organization were discussed. The staff was also put on an unpaid work furlough.

According to the complaint it was at this time parents began to notice Mr. Saba was having "frequent angry outbursts" directed towards the cast and crew of "Goodnight Moon". Many people felt he was severely stressed.

In answer to your question I would say there was discontent among staff, although none of these financial issues were known to parents, before the dressing room incident.

If Saba was struggling to fundraise appropriately he had no business spending extra work hours directing a show. He should have been doing the job he was hired to do - bring donors to JT.

Thank you again for your work on this important issue. Jenn


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 3:37 p.m.

carrington; Some tentative answers to your excellent questions: I can't imagine many if any other girls were interviewed if, as reported, the so-called independent investigator did not even interview the girl who was the victim! I don't know if Saba was put on leave during the investigation but I strongly doubt it.

You make some superb points: teachers, mentors, coaches should not put their hands on young people out of anger. Period.

I do not know if the finances of the theater have been partially drained because of this, but I suspect the board has spent some money on it. And that is money that should be going to the children. Best, Don Bauder


rmellen May 5, 2017 @ 2:53 p.m.

I repeatedly told Darien Webster (President of the Junior Theatre Board of Trustees) that the Board had to find a way to communicate the full truth to the patrons and supporters of Junior Theatre, and that if they did not, then the storm around this controversy would never go away. It is shocking, Darien, that you've made no further effort to be forthcoming.

I was at the "information" meeting that Gil Cabrera organized, where he gave no new information, but asked if he could record all the comments the attendees were making. The majority of attendees granted him the permission to record the meeting, with the understanding that each person present would receive a copy of the recording. Gil, you promised... where is the recording? Apparently you intended to use it only to protect yourself and the compromised members of the Board.

Mr. Bauder is spot on: There must be a truly independent investigation, and the results of that investigation must be made public.


Don Bauder May 5, 2017 @ 3:56 p.m.

rmellen: If an independent investigation is made public, you can bet the Reader will report on it. You were doing your duty to tell Webster that he had to find a way to communicate the truth to patrons and supporters. The board has a lot of explaining to do. Best, Don Bauder


SDRaven May 6, 2017 @ 12:35 p.m.

I have attended several productions at SDJT and I'm always happy to spend my hard earned income on the cultural arts, but it makes me angry to learn upon reading the complaint that my money was spent poorly.

I strongly disagree with the notion of cutting funding for the arts that is permeating the current political climate, but nothing detracts from the noble cause of supporting the arts more than finding out that what you donate is squandered or spent lining the pockets of those charged with putting that money to good use. A board that wastes money only proves the naysayers right.

Hopefully the city will look deeper into this matter and fill the board with caring bodies who only wish to better the Junior Theater, not themselves.


jennvalenti May 6, 2017 @ 3:47 p.m.

Don: As long time parents of JT kids, Matt and I never had any doubts about the management of the program or safety of our kids before the Fall of 2016. That is why it was so shocking and unnerving to see what was really going on behind the scenes once we were forced to take a close look.

We honestly didn't even know who the board members were before any of this happened. We brought our kids to classes, rehearsals and shows. We volunteered hundreds of hours over the years. Everything seemed to be fine.

Looking at page 20 of the complaint you will see that serious financial issues became apparent to staff soon before Mr. Saba's alleged battery against the child occurred. A staff meeting was held to explain that the Communications Director's hours would be cut in half, and deep cuts of up to 20% across the organization were discussed. The staff was also put on an unpaid work furlough. According to the complaint it was at this time parents began to notice Mr. Saba was having "frequent angry outbursts" directed towards the cast and crew of "Goodnight Moon". Many people felt he was severely stressed.

In answer to your earlier question I would say there was discontent among staff, although none of these financial issues were known to parents, before the dressing room incident. If Saba was struggling to fundraise appropriately he had no business spending extra work hours directing a show. He should have been doing the job he was hired to do - bring donors to JT.

Thank you again for your work on this important issue. Jenn


Don Bauder May 6, 2017 @ 5:37 p.m.

SDRaven: Yes, there must be a neutral arbitrator looking into this. Valenti's investigation shows that the Junior Theatre has financial problems. Hours of other employees have been cut, in additions to the layoffs. This operation -- so important to the San Diego art scene -- has deep woes and must engage in deep introspection. It appears that a new board and management will be required. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 6, 2017 @ 5:39 p.m.

Carolyn Miller: To my knowledge, there haven't been such incidents before. Have discipline, decency and board honesty vanished? People will think so until the board levels with the public. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 6, 2017 @ 5:46 p.m.

Rusanne Anthony" Don't be so sure that the girl shaken by Saba in the girls' dressing room "played it down." Apparently, she initially did so. But Valenti's report shows that the girl's father was not told the truth about the incident. According to Valenti's report, nearly two months after he heard the "official" story, the girl's father sent "an angry email to Gil Cabrera demanding a new investigation of the incident." The father had learned that the incident took place in the girls' dressing room, not "backstage," and Saba did not simply place his had on the girl's shoulder. He shook her and shouted at her, telling her loudly that she should not mock him. Best, Don Bauder


REY May 6, 2017 @ 8 p.m.

Abuse of power has no place in any society and it is particularly repugnant when used against impressionable children and their loved ones.

These children are simply trying to have a safe outlet for creative expression. They should not be subjected to indignities or worse.

Also, organizations such as these nonprofits are legally required to abide by the terms and conditions of their 501(c)(3) status. It is bad enough when "lay people" who are Board Members inadvertently run afoul of such responsibilities but it is unconscionable when attorneys that are Board Members violate statutes relating to ethics, conflict of interests, misappropriation of trust funds, etc. They know better. Such Board Members should be terminated so that the sanctity of the 501(c)(3) is preserved otherwise the 501(c)(3)'s status as a nonprofit is in jeopardy.

If the 501(c)(3) status is revoked and this Junior Theater ceases to function in harmony with its intended purpose then the children are victimized all over again. That would be a tragedy.

Furthermore, it would be a travesty of justice if the Attorney General were to not pursue such a matter especially since it has been brought to his attention and it is the subject of a submitted Complaint.


Don Bauder May 15, 2017 @ 7:29 p.m.

Rey: I agree. This series of incidents must be investigated more thoroughly. Best, Don Bauder


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