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County Board Member Launches GoFundMe for Unpaid Refs

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Despite nearly a year’s worth of effort, it looks like a group of youth basketball referees left unpaid by a county contractor are not going to get paid via any kind of governmental intervention.

Instead, an Arlington County Board member is seeking to crowdfund their payments.

Matt de Ferranti, who has “taken on the cause of the referees as his own” and expressed optimism about finding a solution earlier this year, has instead launched a GoFundMe campaign on his own.

De Ferranti told ARLnow today that he launched the campaign in his personal capacity, and contributed $250 of his own money, after being unable to find a way to get the refs paid in his professional capacity.

The issue started after last winter’s rec league sports season, when the owner and sole employee of a company hired by Arlington County to manage referees suffered a stroke and was incapacitated. Most of the 100 or so referees hired by Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees, which received a $163,269 contract from the county, were paid, according to de Ferranti. About two dozen are still owed, in aggregate, somewhere around $12,000.

That money is unlikely to be forthcoming due to “significant financial problems” at the company, which is now reportedly under conservatorship.

De Ferranti’s GoFundMe effort has set a goal of raising $12,500 from the community, to — as the title of the campaign suggests — “Pay the Referees.”

“I think it’s a unique situation that the law, and the right thing to do, do not align,” de Ferranti said. “I think [the campaign] will move us forward as a community.”

De Ferranti stressed that all efforts had been made to find a way for Arlington County to intervene, but the possible legal remedies appear to have been exhausted. The county government can’t pay the refs — many of them teens — because it never employed them directly.

“The fact that we are legally unable to pay the rest is something that not everybody immediately knows,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do, to compensate individuals for work that has been done… This is unfortunately a reality of the law that says public entities cannot provide gifts of public funds to individuals we do not have contracts with.”

“My colleagues and I share the desire to address this,” de Ferranti continued. “We all, in our personal capacities, want to see this addressed. We tried creative ways to fix the problem, that were legally permissible, and in this unique situation we have been unable to address the problem.”

Arlington now has a contract with a different referee contractor, and new policies in place, he noted.

De Ferranti suggested that donations of $25 could make a big difference and help the campaign raise the needed funds “as quickly as possible.” He plans to further promote the campaign, which he launched today, via social media.

“I ask that you join me, as I care about making sure the young people and adults who refereed our County league games last year are compensated for their work,” the GoFundMe page says. “I’m proud that our community pitches in to help where there is a need. I promise if there was another way to get this done, I would do it. Please help.”

Image via Flickr/Karl Baron

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