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.

Rounding says, "I thought if we could get Janice to come on the board of directors . . . that we would be the cleanest shelter in Maricopa County and never do anything wrong because we would have 5,000 attorneys!"

From the beginning, Goldstein had questions about the shelter. The first time she showed up to baby-sit, the place was chaotic--she was put in charge of six kids, ages 14 months to 8 years old. And when Goldstein got some circus tickets donated, Rounding refused to let the mothers attend, even though there were extra tickets. She and Goldstein took the children to the circus themselves.

"It struck me as sad, because I thought this would have been a nice thing for the mothers to do with their children," Goldstein says.

Goldstein stopped by the shelter on the day of Ashford's attempted takeover. She calmed Rounding, told her not to worry.

"I never saw her again," Rounding says wistfully.
Rounding had taken Goldstein's advice, and hired Marcia Cech-Soucy to straighten out the shelter's books.

"[Cech-Soucy] came so highly recommended by Janice that I thought she would be our savior," Rounding says.

Marcia Cech-Soucy's got a mouth on her that would make Roseanne blush. She marches across her living room to grab the goddamn phone, the fly of her jeans unzipped beneath a stretched-out white tee shirt, lank red hair hanging in her face. She looks and acts like a co-ed pulling an all-nighter before a midterm, but Cech-Soucy is 43, the mother of two adult sons and a political consultant by trade. Cech-Soucy never had the urge to be around battered women. She's a former victim, and would rather not be reminded of it. But it was a nonelection year and her savings were gone when she was asked to keep books for the shelter for two hours a day, at $8.50 an hour. It was better than temping.

Besides, she was intrigued by the possibility of uncovering wrongdoing. Cech-Soucy recalls, "Janice [Goldstein] said, 'You know, I'm just uncomfortable and I just can't put my finger on what's wrong here.'" Cech-Soucy agreed to infiltrate.

At first, Cech-Soucy says, it wasn't so bad. "[Rounding] didn't sound particularly wacko. She just said she had recently taken over as the board president and executive director and there was just a lot of confusion there."

Quickly, Cech-Soucy says, she realized that checks were missing--the checks Rounding had written for Rounding's salary. She began to document her findings.

Rounding says Cech-Soucy was a problem from the beginning. She showed up late for work and took her entire second week off to move. Rounding nicknamed her the "V Woman" for "vicious, violent, vulgar."

One day, Rounding says, she came to work and Cech-Soucy had shut down the fund-raising phone banks. "She had all the phones turned off and fired all the phone people," she recalls. She says Cech-Soucy told her a friend was going to take over the telemarketing.

If Cech-Soucy was so disruptive, why didn't Rounding simply fire her? Rounding says by then--it was late summer--she just wanted out.

Cech-Soucy was convinced that Rounding had to go.
"[Rounding] clearly was not even lucid at this point. You know, talking to herself in the office, praying, talking to angels, hearing voices from God, in a complete stupor for hours on end, almost catatonic," Cech-Soucy says.

Cech-Soucy says she confronted Rounding about the missing checks, and Rounding admitted she had been taking a salary.

"She was still telling the staff to the day before she left . . . that she'd never taken a dime in salary. Nobody cares who gets paid what. Twenty-four or $25,000 is not a big, fat wage. Why would you lie about it?" Cech-Soucy asks.

Rounding says she never lied.
After that, Cech-Soucy says, "I was just rude to her. I was just in her face, most of the time, because I just couldn't believe. I'd say, 'You can't do that! Do you understand?' It was almost like being somebody's parent. . . . I took the checkbook away from her, closed all the checking accounts. She went right down and had counter checks printed. I couldn't stop her."

Rounding resigned at the end of September. Goldstein was elected president of the board. Her assistant at the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, Linda Schlagel, is secretary/treasurer. Cech-Soucy is operations director.

Rounding says that by the end she didn't even know the shelter's monthly balance. She didn't have a checkbook. She left.

She says, "I just woke up one day and said that's it, I've had it with this bullshit. I was losing all my hair, I had chest pains, I just couldn't take any more."

Of the battered women, she says, "The good ones are helped by their families. So I'm sitting there killing myself, for what? Women who don't care about themselves, a staff that stabs me in the back, a board of directors I'm fighting tooth and nail. For five bucks an hour?"

Audrey Rounding is one of the few former Open Door employees who doesn't want her job back.

Former counselors Annette Cain and Heidi Deane were hired by Rounding. Both women say Rounding was pushed out unfairly, and that they were, too, when they refused to climb aboard Cech-Soucy's "hate bandwagon," as Deane puts it.

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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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