Longform

Shelter Skelter

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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.

Cain is trained in chemical-dependency counseling. Deane is a real estate agent.

Cech-Soucy says the women failed to show up for work for days, then demanded their jobs back. She won't give them back.

Cain and Deane returned to the shelter recently to plead with Cech-Soucy for their jobs. She wouldn't budge.

Deane says Cech-Soucy threw a temper tantrum. "She was screaming at the top of her lungs. Now, for a domestic violence shelter, I'm sorry, but that's just totally unacceptable."

Cain says, "I guess we felt as battered as the women who were there to be healed." The women say they never saw any evidence that Rounding had done anything wrong.

"One of the things I'll say about Audrey is that she tried," Cain says.
Both women have filed workers' compensation claims. Deane says, "I can't sleep. I have lost 15 pounds in the last two weeks. I have been really unable to focus."

Cech-Soucy has a separate bone to pick with Deane. The old shelter on Brill Street was sold to Deane while she was employed by The Open Door under Rounding's direction. Deane took over the mortgage and agreed to a $5,000 down payment, to be made in $300 installments. She's up to date on mortgage payments, but not the down payment.

Deane refuses to pay the down payment until she's happy with the way the shelter is run. She says, "I have a real problem with this shelter. The way that they manage their money, I feel like this money's going to go into Marcia's pocket. I'd rather take the money I owe them and divide it around among the women."

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.