Funny girl

High atop a hill in Pleasant Grove, Charlotte Parkhurst says the gays are coming to get her--and her pile of mulch too

Duncan, who can be a good sport about criticism, drags heavily on a cigarette and exhales when asked if he ever had a homosexual affair with Bill McCord.

"Happy new year," says Duncan, who married his high school sweetheart, Susan. "I had heard her say that. I did not hear the spin on gays taking over the neighborhood."

Parkhurst complains that Duncan ignores her telephone calls and requests to meet with her. On that point, Duncan says, his Pleasant Grove neighbor is right.

"It is not prudent, because who knows what accusations would grow out of that?" Duncan says. "Anybody who's involved in the situation, whether it's me or anyone else, is considered self-serving."

For his part, McCord says he is happy to use the new ordinance as a weapon in the battle with Parkhurst.

"Everybody on the block has been upset about what she's done, but it's her property, and we can't do anything," he says. "But with the illegal dumping [ordinance], now we can."

Coincidence or not, a day after Duncan's new ordinance took effect, the code enforcement department set its sights on Parkhurst.

The next round of the battle kicked off at 11:20 a.m. August 28, when Parkhurst called the police to complain, once again, that Rhoads was attempting to prevent Holcomb's Pete Sistus from dumping mulch on the property by parking his car in front of Parkhurst's property.

"I knew I wasn't breaking the law, because I parked on the street," says Rhoads, who confirms that he stood in the street in an attempt to keep Sistus off his property until police told him to move. "It just got really ridiculous."

Later that day, a squadron of code enforcement, illegal dump, and drainage inspectors descended upon Parkhurst's house for an inspection. As the day dragged on, they were joined by city marshals, the city's arborist, and other bureaucrats whose cars continually circled about the garden of pansies.

By nightfall, city inspectors cited Parkhurst and Rhoads for operating an illegal landfill, ordering both to cease dumping. They also issued Holcomb Tree Service a citation for the "unlawful placement of bulky items."

Sistus, who recently appeared with Parkhurst at a municipal court hearing for Parkhurst's illegal dump citation, says he has dumped about 14 loads on Eccles Drive since May--seven loads for Parkhurst and seven loads for Rhoads.

"It was only chips, the mulch, logs and all of that, but it didn't have no dirt or nothing like that," says Sistus, his bloodshot eyes squinting in the glaring lights of the courthouse.

Although Rhoads denies ever authorizing mulch-dumping on his property by Holcomb, in a letter dated September 15, 1997, Johnson stated that Rhoads asked his company to unload mulch on his property then later became hostile. "Mr. Rhodes [sic] started harassing our driver," Johnson wrote. "This incident is on file with the Dallas police."

Johnson was apparently referring to the complaint Sistus filed on August 28, claiming Rhoads assaulted him back on August 18 when Rhoads poked him on the forearm and told him to stop dumping fill on his property. The city issued Rhoads a citation for assault, which he considers, along with the letter, to be part of an orchestrated attempt by Holcomb to "cover their ass."

For the next two weeks, city employees, led by code enforcement inspector John Crowley, continued to make routine visits to Parkhurst's home--a situation Parkhurst says amounts to harassment.

"He came over every day. He would stalk me," Parkhurst says of Crowley. "He would back his car on my yard and rev up his engine. He'd drive around the circle drive and take pictures."

If Parkhurst wasn't already paranoid, she certainly had reason to become so on September 11, when code enforcement boss Ramiro Lopez took the unusual step of writing Parkhurst in person and ordering her to level the material on her property.

"The city of Dallas code enforcement staff gave you legal notice to cease what is known as illegal operation," Lopez wrote. "Since that time, staff has been monitoring your address to ensure continued compliance."

Crowley, who is handling the case for the city, says he is not allowed to comment on it in detail, and his boss, Lopez, declined to discuss the issue. However, Crowley's personal case notes suggest that Parkhurst did not respond well to the surveillance, which occurred on at least five occasions between August 29 and September 22.

On September 3, Crowley wrote that he was marking a pile of dirt on Parkhurst's driveway when Parkhurst wheeled into the drive, nearly running him over. Parkhurst then screamed at him before ripping up the citation he had taped on her door and retrieving a camera from her house.

"She took photos of me and continued this irrational obsessive behavior," Crowley wrote in his notes. "She then added that I should attend one of her neighbor's parties. She then called me a name that has to do with one's sexual preference."

The incident was repeated the next day, when Crowley and inspector Artie McDaniel returned to Parkhurst's home.

"As we were looking at the site, Mrs. Parkhurst came out of her house with a camera and started taking photos...Artie waved at the owner and she became hostile. She verbally abused Artie, the neighbor, and myself."

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