Shelter Skelter

The Open Door is supposed to be a haven for battered women. Instead, the operators have wasted much of their energy--and money--abusing one another.

Laswell-Daniels announced her retirement in the fall of 1994. By the end of the year, just three board members remained--Jody Trentor, Jan Ashford and Audrey Rounding.

Laswell-Daniels says she was asked to stay on to wrap up loose ends, but she resigned after board members confronted her about the missing $40,000 check.

Rounding confirms this. "I called her up," Rounding says, "and I said, 'Lola, you cannot begin to believe all the stuff they have on you. You have two choices. Bring back the check with your letter of resignation or they're going to go to the attorney general and you're going to be in a lot of trouble.'"

After that, Rounding's resume gained a new, bizarre entry: "evict[ed] Lola Daniels . . ."

Audrey Rounding wants it known that her friends and associates live in Carefree and Paradise Valley, and they're nothing like the "scum" that populates domestic violence shelters. She serves a visitor Hawaiian coffee from fancy gold cups with rock sugar on swizzle sticks and shows off a book titled Woman to Woman: From Sabotage to Support.

Rounding calls the shelter system a scam. Of course, she didn't know that years ago when she started donating to The Open Door.

She'd visit the shelter to drop off donations she'd collected from friends. "One day I went over there and I had on this gorgeous, gorgeous sweater that I had just bought the day before. And I'm the kind of person who will take the shirt off their back," she says.Laswell-Daniels admired the sweater, so Rounding gave it to her as a gift. And agreed to be on the shelter board of directors. She joined in the fall of 1994. After Laswell-Daniels left, Rounding lobbied fellow board members Jody Trentor and Jan Ashford to become president. Within weeks she had also assumed the title of executive director--with no salary.

One of her first moves was to sell the shelter's location of eight years and buy a new building.

She says, "When I went there, I thought I could just go in for a couple of months and get this new shelter and kind of leave my mark and die in peace and know that I did this great thing. But when you're dealing with evil people, it doesn't happen that way. And you have people here that are power-hungry."

If she had known with whom she was dealing--and how much money the shelter was raking in--she never would have surrendered her beautiful sweater.

She says, "I went in as Mother Teresa. I came out as Mary Queen of Scots."
Rounding recruited new board members, including longtime acquaintances Elizabeth Goff, a CPA, and Bruce Smidt, a lawyer. Those two actually attended meetings. Others, like Channel 5 news anchor Carol Cavazos, didn't, and resigned within months.

Rounding says that when she took over, there were just two women and their children living at the old shelter. One unit was used for storage, another for an office. That left just two apartments for clients. She decided they needed more space and found a larger building in east Phoenix.

In the spring, Rounding launched a major fund-raising effort to buy a $250,000 building.

During a March tour of the new building, which at the time was uncarpeted and messy, Rounding painted a rosy picture of life at The Open Door Shelter.

"Everybody's like a team, we're all like a family, and you get to love all these little kids. It's fabulous," she said.

But as soon as she began to talk about the clients, her tone darkened.
"I've been to the Ritz, and I have been to the Waldorf-Astoria. The service these women get, you couldn't buy anywhere," she said. And it annoyed her that the women were frightened to move from the old shelter to the new facility.

"They can't take change. So every little thing traumatizes them," she said.
By April 1994, the women had relocated.
Former employees went before the Maricopa County Task Force Against Domestic Abuse to urge that The Open Door Shelter's membership be revoked. They cited harsh treatment of the clients, including an instance where two women and their children were evicted in the middle of the night. Rounding admits that this occurred, but says the women deserved it.

Some of the shelter's current and former clients began to complain about Rounding. "People tried to stay away as much as they could because they hated to be around her. I myself stayed away as much as I could," recalls a client who refused to work in the shelter's office as a secretary because she felt uncomfortable around Rounding.

She says Rounding badgered her about finding a job and barged into her apartment uninvited.

"This was supposed to be like our home," the woman says. Other shelter staff members left clients alone, the woman adds, but Rounding's intrusions were "constant, like she didn't trust us, she wanted to see what we were doing."
Laswell-Daniels had asked the clients to pay $125 per month if they were able; Rounding required it.

Rounding didn't have much use for the women. Looking back, she says, "The only thing that kept me at Open Door was those kids."

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Lola real names are Lazwell, Caraffa, Daniels and another name that is Mexican. She is a pathological liar. Most everything I got donated for auction from Ortega's in Scottsdale, Az. (Like KACHINAS) that are in her china cabinet. including furniture and kitchen items. She was married to Al Caraffa and lived in Phoenix. She had filed for divorce and was having divorce papers served on him, but called the atty. to stop the paper as she was meeting him for dinner and he was electrocted in her house. She took everything that was worth money. She and her next husband. Mr. James Daniels. She is a bully and no one liked her. Now, she goes to church every day and helps serve mass. Mr. James Daniels son does not know how many marriages she has had..I asked her to see the financials and she said no. That was the last day I worked for her.

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