(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.
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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Some referees who worked for Arlington’s youth basketball games have still not been paid for the winter season.
The lack of pay continues five months after officials said they were “looking into” the issue caused by the company Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees, which Arlington contracted with to manage referees.
“Arlington County does not know the number of officials who haven’t been paid, as the officials are not employees of the County and Mid-Atlantic is responsible for payment,” county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said Tuesday, when asked how many referees are still awaiting wages.
During Saturday’s County Board meeting, one 16-year-old girl asked the County Board to help her get paid.
“Like a lot of the other teenage referees, this was supposed to be my first paying job,” she said. “Yet I was never paid.”
“I believe Arlington County owes me the $255 in wages and it is not the responsibility of teenage workers to chase down this county contractor,” she said.
“I’m really sorry that you had this incredibly negative experience with what I presume is one of your first jobs,” replied Board Chair Christian Dorsey.
Dorsey said that officials found out that the head of Mid-Atlantic suffered “a catastrophic health issue” that caused a backlog of payment requests, among other record-keeping issues. The county is in contact with relatives of the company’s founder, who have helped with the business and paid all of the unpaid referees they were aware of, Dorsey said.
“What is challenging for us… is that we paid the vendor,” said Dorsey, adding that Board has a duty to prevent taxpayers from “paying twice” for the service.
In total, the Department of Parks and Recreation paid Mid-Atlantic $163,269 for the season through April, according to records ARLnow obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. County spokeswoman Erika Moore said Arlington did not seek any money back from the company, explaining that the county’s “payment obligation was to Mid-Atlantic for services rendered to Arlington County.”
Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman and Director of Constituent Services Ben Aiken told ARLnow that he also recently contacted the company.
“As a courtesy in my role as Ombudsman, I emailed on behalf of two constituents, including the former referee who spoke at the September public comment,” Aiken said. “Those messages were sent yesterday (Monday, Sept. 23), and I have not yet received a response.”
Mid-Atlantic could not be reached for comment.
Smith said the county terminated its contract with the company in May and put out a bid for a new contractor this fall. In the meantime, the county tapped NOVA Refs (which also provides youth football flag referees in Arlington) for the job.
“The County procured interim services using a Quick Quote contract method to ensure the summer and fall season were not impacted,” she said.
“We’ve learned some lessons on how we contract outside vendors,” Dorsey noted Saturday. “We do learn our lessons when things go wrong.”
The youth basketball leagues are offered to students in grades 1-12 and are run by volunteer coaches, according to the county’s website. For the 1st and 2nd grade level league, the volunteer coaches also act as referees, per the website.
“Don’t be afraid to be a ref again, please, we need refs,” said Board member Erik Gutshall to the teenager who took to the podium on Saturday. “I hope you enjoyed the experience, although not the aftermath.”
Image via Flickr/Karl Baron
(Updated on 04/25/19) Some referees for Arlington’s youth basketball games have not been paid by the contractor who hired them, according to officials who say the county is “looking into” the issue.
The Department of Parks and Recreation said they contract with a company called “Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees” to staff youth basketball referees, but that the company has yet to pay some of the referees it hired for the winter game season.
The department paid Mid-Atlantic $163,269 for the season and has an additional $17,724 in payments “in process” to the company, according to records ARLnow obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
“Arlington County is very concerned about this issue,” said DPR spokeswoman Susan Kalish Thursday. “The Department of Parks and Recreation has escalated the issue to the Department of Management and Finance and it’s currently under review with the Purchasing Division.”
Benjamin Hampton, a spokesman for the County’s Manager’s office, told ARLnow on Wednesday there was “no new information on this beyond what DPR shared… At this point we don’t have confirmation of the number of referees affected.”
Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees could not be reached for comment.
The company does not have a website, and a Facebook page bearing the same name is empty. The only employee listed for the company on LinkedIn is Edward Hamilton, whose profile says he is now “retired.”
The county offers youth basketball leagues for students in grades 1-12 and says on its website that coaches volunteer. For the 1st and 2nd grade level league, the volunteer coaches also act as referees, per the website.
Kalish confirmed the missing payments on Tuesday after a tipster told ARLnow that “many of the referees are youth but some are adults who count on the extra income.”
“This will create a situation for future basketball season where referees will not want to work in Arlington,” the tipster added. “In addition, the fees paid by parents who children play in the program were collected back in November of 2018.”
“The County’s purchasing department has contacted Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees to let them know the severity of this issue,” she said. “Arlington County is currently looking into the matter.”
Image via Flickr
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Flickr pool photo by Arlington VA