Longform

Townsel-ectomy

Page 4 of 5

The hearings drew a packed house, television cameras and national media coverage.

Townsel was exonerated of the charges in a 3-2 vote, with the two Latino board members, Linda Aguirre and Carlos Avelar, voting against him.

The whole matter cost the district $60,000 in legal fees. Ransom left the district after she was accused of being unable to manage her classroom. Townsel moved to his current position at the district office as director of the Title 1 federal grant program.

But the legal wrangling between Townsel and Roosevelt was far from over.
Townsel filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying the district had discriminated against him when it passed him over for a deputy superintendent's post. EEOC dismissed the complaint.

Then Townsel filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that his civil rights had been violated when he was not named director of personnel.

Roosevelt's insurance company ultimately settled the case with Townsel for $10,000, according to Denise McKenna, the district's in-house attorney.

But in the meantime, Townsel was hauled before the Arizona Board of Education to explain why his 1983 certification application stated that he had never been convicted of a crime.

Townsel assured the board that it was an honest mistake and that he had inadvertently checked "no" instead of "yes" on the application.

Reverend Brooks told the state board that Townsel's tax conviction was "a known fact" when he was hired and that the board was happy to keep him.

The state Board of Education suspended Townsel's education certificate for six months, during which time Townsel continued to work at the district office as a noncertified administrator.

Charles Townsel's financial pratfalls have not been limited to schools. Some of them are detailed in a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Sometime around 1991, Townsel met Jeanne Hallenbeck-Doutrick, a widow who lived in an apartment near his. Hallenbeck-Doutrick suffers from multiple sclerosis and at the time was experiencing the early stages of dementia often associated with the tragic disease.

The disability had forced her to retire from her job as a clerk for the City of Phoenix.

Townsel and Hallenbeck-Doutrick developed a friendship. In court documents, Townsel claims he took a great interest in Hallenbeck-Doutrick's care.

After Hallenbeck-Doutrick moved to Sun City, Townsel said he drove to her home four times a week to care for her, took her shopping and out to eat, ran her errands and spent every weekend with her.

And by 1993, she had given Townsel her house, her car and had spent nearly $30,000 in checks and credit-card charges on him.

That's when her daughters sued for guardianship of their mother and to wrest control of her estate from Townsel.

Medical records indicate that Hallenbeck-Doutrick was incompetent during the time she was signing checks to pay Townsel's bills: taxes, loan payments, rent, the mortgage on his daughter's home in California and legal bills to attorney Alice Bendheim, who represented Townsel in the sexual harassment case.

Townsel argued in court papers that Hallenbeck-Doutrick gave him her home because he cared about her. But she had no recollection of having done it.

"During this time, Jeanne chose to help me through some trying financial obligations," Townsel said in court papers. "She volunteered to do so after she and I had talked about my needs."

The golf clubs, clothing and furniture charged on her credit cards were apparently part of those needs as well.

"I took Jeanne shopping at Scottsdale Mall," he said. "In the course of her shopping, she decided that she wanted to buy some things for me at the St.Croix men's shop."

But it was Townsel who signed many of the credit receipts during those shopping expeditions.

The court awarded guardianship of Hallenbeck-Doutrick to her daughters in March 1993.

A month later, Townsel drove Hallenbeck-Doutrick to the Peoria Justice Court and married her--without the permission of her guardians.

On the marriage license, Hallenbeck-Doutrick's first name isn't even spelled correctly.

The marriage lasted as long as it takes to get an annulment. Townsel skipped that court proceeding.

He settled the probate case, agreeing to return the house and the car and never to see Hallenbeck-Doutrick again.

The Reverend George Brooks and Charles Townsel are old friends. They go way back to the University of California at Berkeley during the height of the civil rights movement.

Brooks recently retired from the pulpit of Southminster Presbyterian Church, but not from the school board on which he has served longer than anyone can quickly remember.

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Lisa Davis