If You See Something, Say Something: On Embezzlement, Addiction and the Swing Scene [Op-ed]

Over the weekend, Baltimore dancer and swing venue organizer Michael Seguin posted publicly this account to his Facebook wall about the misdeeds of a well-known international lindy hop instructor and organizer he was partners with both romantically and professionally. It’s long, complicated, and of course very personal. But there are some of the details of his account that I think are relevant for all of us in the community to consider, even if you don’t know any of the people involved:

  • For many years, this person is alleged to have embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the swing dance venue she was a partner of.
  • This person was able to do this because she did the accounting of the business with no accountability.
  • This person did this in large part because of addiction issues, specifically to alcohol and gambling.

Michael’s conclusion to his story is that very few people called this individual on her behavior, despite knowing something about it. And she was able to do it for so long because she did the books of the business without supervision or accountability. He imagines the outcome could have been different if many more people said and did something to address those problems. 

I also perhaps don’t need to remind people that there are other situations in our scene where many people saw warning signs for years, but nothing happened until many people were hurt. 

I’m not an expert on either addiction or running a business. But this distressing story does suggest two challenges we should be facing:

  • What can I do to intervene if I see that someone has an addiction issue?
  • For organizers: What can do I to ensure that our funds aren’t used improperly?

So be that person who does something. Have those hard conversations in your scene, face-to-face with those involved, if something seems fishy. You might save someone’s life. 

For more resources on how to support someone facing addiction, click here.