Youth sports and after-school groups from Alaska to New Jersey that hired a Washington company to register program participants online are finding they have more than recreation in common: they are among two dozen or so organizations who haven't received their fees collected by Count Me In (CMI) Corp.
A blogger's unofficial tally finds that the Bellevue, Wash.-based company owes about $2 million to some 25 nonprofits - a dollar figure that's growing by the day.
Count Me In is currently being sued in at least two states, California and Washington, for breach of contract and other causes, and there is a criminal investigation in Bergen County, N.J., because of the unpaid fees.
The company website says it provides online registration services to more than 1,000 organizations, and gives no indication of its financial troubles. An e-mail to CMI's parent corporation, the Arena Group Inc., generated an automated response that did not address money problems. Messages left on voice mails by Youth Today requesting comment were not returned by CMI or its attorney at the Seattle-based Summit Law Group.
CMI was hired by youth nonprofits to conduct online registration services, covering its cost with a transaction fee of around $3. The programming dollars were supposed to be transferred to the nonprofits at regular intervals.
But a growing number of organizations said that in late summer and fall CMI was tardy sending payments and then stopped making them altogether.
• Montclair United Soccer Club (MUSC) in New Jersey, a nonprofit group serving more than 1,600 area youth, discovered in September that CMI had missed its payments. On Nov. 10, it filed suit in federal court against CMI, its parent company and founder and CEO J. Terrence Drayton for breach of contract and other causes. MUSC says it's owed around $142,000, but CMI said the amount is about $117,000. (The litigation is ongoing.)
• The Alameda Education Foundation, an after-school nonprofit based in California that says it's owed about $40,000, filed suit in California state court on Dec. 2.
• Teaneck Baseball Organization, a nonprofit in New Jersey that serves around 800 youth, could be missing as much as $80,000 from CMI, said Dr. Steven Gronowitz, Teaneck's executive director.
Other groups that have reported having trouble getting their money include a ski club in Alaska, a youth golf tour in Florida and a youth lacrosse league in California, according to different media accounts.
It's not clear how CMI got into its current financial situation or whether sports and recreational clubs that used CMI's services will end up losing money. The company is said to be exploring options ranging from bringing in new investors to filing for bankruptcy. John Cook, a blogger for Seattle-based TechFlash, who has been tracking the problems with Count Me In, estimates that so far about 25 groups have said they are owed a total of nearly $2 million.
On Dec. 16, Bergen County, N.J., Prosecutor John L. Molinelli began a criminal investigation into the allegation that CMI failed to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars in registration fees legally owed to volunteer recreational sports programs. The Washington state attorney general's office has received more than 20 complaints about the company, but has not said whether an investigation is ongoing.
Meanwhile, a competitor software company moved last week to capitalize on CMI's financial headaches. "Recent events unfolding are hitting close to home with sports organizations and their boards questioning whether their online registration provider deserves their trust," reads a new message on the website of ActiveSports, a division of California-based The Active Network, which provides technology-management services to around 14,000 youth sports clubs. The Web page goes on to offer tips on how to select a technology provider.