It has been discovered that the chairman of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy organization that seeks to advance the rights of consenting adults of alternative sexualities, embezzled at least $60,000 from the non-profit.
Since 1997, the Baltimore-based group has been lobbying for tolerance and fighting against the discrimination of adults involved in lifestyles such as polyamory, kink, and swinging. NCSF also offers people of alternative sexualities referrals to professionals in psychology, health, and law, who have been vetted and proved to be open to different types of sexual expression. The non-profit additionally is involved in educating law-enforcement agencies and the voting public about alternative sexualities, and have been active in calls to revise the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM), to remove the paraphilia status that stigmatizes alternative sexual practices. The realization that such a large sum of money has been fraudulently taken from the cause is a devastating blow to the organization and community members.
Leigha Fleming, who died on December 19, had served as chairman of NCSF since 2008 — eight years after she joined the organization as a volunteer. At that time, NCSF was in a transitional phase, moving from a grassroots effort into the more professional space of non-profit community organizer and catalyst for change. Fleming took the spotlight in 2010 when NCSF took a leadership position on a multi-organization project working to decriminalize BDSM in the United States. The project, called Consent Counts, put Fleming center-stage as its chief spokesperson.
On the back-end, Fleming was tasked with the non-profit’s budget and finances, which at the time she came on, had been working hard to eliminate its debt and get its expenses under control. In her profile on NCSF, Fleming noted the challenges facing the organization when she came on, saying, “Like many non-profit organizations, we’ve been hit very hard by the downturn in the economy. We need to place NCSF on secure financial footing.”
Unfortunately, a year after Consent Counts got underway, Fleming began “diverting” money from the NCSF 501(c)4 membership organization to cover her own expenses. Per a bulletin on the organization’s site posted on December 20, 2013:
The Board of NCSF is acting aggressively to recover as much of the missing funds as possible. A lawsuit is being filed in probate court, and the matter has been referred to law enforcement authorities.
The Board of NCSF has authorized an outside financial review of the books of the NCSF 501(c)4 membership organization, and Stephanie Sassy Lynn has been appointed the new Treasurer. The NCSF-Foundation 501(c)3 account, which received all of the donations for our “Office Fire Fundraiser,” was not involved in this matter and continues to be overseen by the Foundation Treasurer, Jim Fleckenstein.
Going forward, the Board is working on ensuring our membership organization is in rigorous compliance with our financial policies and procedures. Several changes have been made to our financial policies to ensure that an opportunity for a repeat of this behavior is not possible, and this situation can never re-occur.
Our volunteer staff members freely give their time, heart and energy to fight discrimination and persecution, and we feel betrayed and devastated. NCSF operates on a small annual budget of $60-70,000 for both the NCSF membership organization and the NCSF-Foundation. We deeply regret the missed activist opportunities that could have been accomplished with the money that is missing.
Regardless of the damage done to NCSF, the work has not gone away. Sexual freedom is not yet a reality, and people still suffer personally and publicly from practicing BDSM, Swing, and Polyamorous lifestyles. NCSF remains committed to moving forward with all of our programs and efforts intact.
Header image by 401(K) 2012.