Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider allocating $133,413 to provide refunds to one of the county’s summer camp contractors.

The contractor — American In-Line Skating, Inc. — went bankrupt after the county cancelled summer camps this year on account of the pandemic, a county staff report says. More from the report:

The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) provides a variety of summer camp programming each year, delivered through a combination of DPR staff-led camps and contractor-led camps. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all 2020 summer camp programs were canceled by Arlington County in late May. Registrants that signed up for camps that are delivered by DPR-staff were refunded in full; registrants that signed up for camps that are delivered by contractor-led camps were refunded according to the individual contractors’ refund policies. One contractor filed for bankruptcy and denied any form of refunds to registrants.

To facilitate the promised refunds, the county is taking a somewhat unorthodox step: making a charitable donation to a local nonprofit, which will then provide the refunds.

“Arlington County has identified Arlington Thrive, a 501(c)(3) organization with a long-standing relationship with Arlington County, to provide refunds in accordance with the camp contractor’s original refund policy that is not being honored,” the staff report says. “Arlington County will provide the funding to Arlington Thrive in the form of a charitable donation of $133,413 from existing funds available in the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) existing donation balances in Trust and Agency accounts.”

Arlington Thrive, which has also been working with the county to help those having trouble paying their rent during the pandemic, will receive a 5% fee for administering the donations.

The situation is reminiscent of the year-long saga of local youth basketball referees who went unpaid after a contractor suffered a serious medical issue. In that case, Arlington officials insisted that there were no legal remedies for paying the refs with county funds; after a year of discussions and efforts to find other remedies, a County Board member launched a GoFundMe campaign.

Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, said the two situations are different.

“In the case of the referees, the County paid the contractor (a company that provides referees for indoor basketball games); however, the contractor, in turn, did not fully pay its subcontractors, the referees,” she said in response to an inquiry from ARLnow. “It is not an appropriate precedent for the County to set to pay subcontractors for work that the County has already paid the contractor.”

“In the case of the camp refunds, the contractor did not honor their stated refund policy,” she continued. “In its communication materials regarding its bankruptcy, the contractor named the decision by the County to cancel camps as the driving factor in its bankruptcy filing… As a result of the bankruptcy filing, the County has a complete list of individuals who were denied refunds and the amount owed.”

Kalish said the county will be making changes to prevent such issues from happening again.

“The County is in the process of amending summer camp contracts to shift the registration and payments from camp contractor’s responsibilities to the County, to ensure that all aspects of the payment, cancelation and refund experience for camp participants are managed by the County,” she said.

“Both of these issues, a camp contractor not honoring its refund policy and a referee contractor not paying its subcontractors, are troubling and not how Arlington County expects its contractors to manage their businesses,” Kalish added. “Neither contractor will be able to do business with Arlington County in the future.”

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