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.

In fact, she liked the children so much, she took one. Rounding admits that a 7-year-old girl from the shelter went home with her on weekends, and once for about two weeks.

She explains, "This was a situation where the mother hated the child. . . . Whenever the mother would get crazy, I would say, 'Let me take her for the weekend and give you some time to calm down and regroup and get yourself together.'

"When I would have the little girl here [at home], I just hugged her the whole weekend and we would watch Beauty and the Beast, I think about 100 times. And I would teach her to go to her mother and hug her mom, because her mom didn't know how to love her."
Terri Hanson, executive director of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, believes the home visits were inappropriate. "As a former shelter director, I never, never, never, never would have taken a client's child home. Never," she says.

Rounding says she didn't turn the child over to Child Protective Services because the mother didn't actually hit the child while she was at the shelter. Eventually, Rounding says, she evicted the mother for drug use. When she last heard, mother and daughter were living in a car.

Finally, one board member got curious about operations at The Open Door. Jan Ashford, who had served on the board since the fall of 1994, demanded to see financial reports.

Rounding claims Ashford started asking questions out of retribution, because Rounding had asked someone if Ashford was a lesbian. Rounding insists it was an innocent question. "I don't care if the whole world is full of lesbians. . . . There are lots and lots and lots and lots of gay women that I adore to pieces," she says.

Ashford says she heard the rumor, but it had nothing to do with her problems with Rounding. "I've been on my own, doing my own thing, sleeping with who I wanted to, doing what I wanted to all my life, and I could give a shit what anybody thinks about me or doesn't think about me," she says.

Ashford never liked Rounding. Her first impression: "That she was a kook. Ego, ego, ego."

When Laswell-Daniels left, Ashford says, she agreed to let Rounding take over. But, she says, it was with the understanding that Rounding wouldn't receive compensation. (Laswell-Daniels had received a salary of $500 a week.)

Rounding claims she was promised $20 an hour in merchandise from the thrift store. She says she has a contract signed by Ashford and Jody Trentor, but she can't find it.

"Never, ever, at any time was there ever a discussion of her going to the . . . store and getting stuff for herself," Ashford says. If there is a contract, she adds, "It's forged."
Trentor refuses to comment.
Rounding has an envelope filled with scribbled receipts for clothing and household items she took from the thrift store.

Sheryl Burdick has saved one of the thrift store's "in-kind" receipts, which are given to people who donate items to the thrift store. This particular receipt is for a bag of clothing valued at $100. Burdick says Rounding took the entire bag, and that both she and her daughter, Christina, watched her.

"My daughter was like, 'Mom, does she do that all the time?'" Burdick recalls.
Burdick signed the receipt, and at the bottom wrote: "A bag of clothing for Audrey only. Witness is a 11 yr old girl." Christina signed the paper.

Rounding says the board voted April 27 to give her a salary of $25,000 a year, retroactive to February 1 and to increase to $30,000 after six months. Plus a car allowance of $300 a month. Shelter checks--some of which were signed by Rounding--were written for the full amount she says she was owed.

There is no record of a salary being approved in the minutes from the April 27 board meeting.

Ashford admits a salary was discussed, but says, "It was never consummated. There were never any minutes written up. There was never any agreement."

Smidt and Goff say they both recall that a salary was approved, but don't remember details.

In June, Rounding fired Susan White, a fund-raising employee who had been with the shelter since 1988. Lorna Harvey, another longtime employee, also left. Both have since filed wrongful termination suits against the shelter. Although each woman initially made claims for about $1,500 each, the shelter has already forked over about $6,000 in attorney fees.

Jan Ashford resigned from the board July 1, but on July 6 she showed up at the shelter with a letter signed by herself, White, Harvey and three other former or current shelter employees. The letter called for Rounding's immediate resignation. White and Harvey say Ashford told them they would run the shelter until a permanent director could be found.

Rounding called Janice Goldstein for help.
Janice Goldstein is executive director of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association. As of last May, she'd never volunteered for a nonprofit, but her son was going off to college and she thought she'd fill some empty hours. She'd received an Open Door flier in the mail, so she offered to baby-sit. Like anyone else who exhibited the slightest interest in the shelter, Goldstein was on the board of directors within weeks.

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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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