Parks Foundation Reaches Civil Settlement in Theft Case

The Montgomery Parks Foundation has reached a $300,000 civil settlement with a former employee accused of misappropriating foundation funds, according to a statement from John Robinson, the foundation’s president.

Robinson discovered discrepancies in the foundation’s bank statements and other financial records in mid-January. The Maryland-National Capital Park Police and the county’s State’s Attorney Office investigated the case.

Raleigh Leichter, a fundraiser for the group, was placed on leave and later terminated.

Leichter was accused of stealing at least $160,000.  She pleaded guilty last week to one count of theft of more than $100,000 and received a five-year suspended sentence, three years’ probation, 100 hours of community service, and must undergo mandatory mental health treatment, according to Robinson.

The settlement in the amount of $300,000, which has been paid in full by Leichter, covers all “stolen, misplaced and disputed funds, the Foundation’s legal and overtime costs, the costs of reviewing and upgrading its electronic donor files and accounting systems, and some of the staff costs incurred in the investigation of the misappropriation,” the statement said. 

To eliminate similar incidents in the future, the foundation has cancelled all credit and debit cards, as well as electronic payments.

“Except for employee salaries and certain administrative expenses that are processed by the Montgomery Parks Department, all expenses are paid only by check,” the statement said. “Only the Foundation’s Executive Director and Officers have check signing authority and the authority of the Executive Director is limited to a specific dollar amount.”

In addition, the foundation has made changes in responsibilities for handling donations and in its review procedures.

The foundation was established in 1992 as an independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation supporting Montgomery County parks.

The foundation supports projects such as the restoration of the Riley/Bolton House, shown above, in Josiah Henson Park. Photo courtesy Montgomery Parks Foundation.