Additional details including evidence and witness statements expected in January
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - 12/19/2018 (PRDistribution.com)
December 19, 2018 – Atlantic City, NJ – A former Board member of the Miss America Organization (MAO), as well as four Miss America state licensees, filed suit today in Atlantic County Superior Court, alleging that MAO executives acted illegally by ignoring the MAO Bylaws and unlawfully taking control of MAO and, as such, the present Board lacks the legal authority to act on behalf of MAO.
The move comes on the heels of an embittered battle that dates back to early 2018 to wrestle control of MAO from Chair Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America, and CEO Regina Hopper, a former Miss Arkansas. Both women, as well as the current MAO Board, are named as defendants in the suit.
The lawsuit requests a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction to maintain the “status quo” as it existed prior to a thwarted Board vote in June 2018 aimed at limiting Carlson’s authority as Chair and her subsequent illegal unseating of two Board members, until the Court can determine the veracity and merits of the Complaint.
The states that have had their licenses officially revoked include Georgia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, as well as New Jersey, Florida and New York. Colorado resigned its license agreement shortly after the September 9 telecast.
The nearly year-long battle for control of MAO has had deleterious consequences. Since the effort to unseat Hopper and Carlson began, MAO has seen resignations by more than a dozen staff, Board and Foundation members, suspended or terminated seven state licenses, had one state resign its license, and had scores of volunteers state that they do not support the current leadership and are leaving the Miss America system because they believe the Organization no longer supports its primary mission: providing scholarships to young women at the local, state and national level. Incredibly, as of today, 46 state pageant licensees have called for the resignations and 23,509 stakeholders have signed a petition initiated by 23 former Miss America’s calling for the resignations of Carlson, Hopper and the Board of Trustees.
“MAO leadership misled thousands of Miss America volunteers and titleholders, as well as the American people who have followed this competition for decades,” said ousted Board member and former Miss North Carolina Jennifer Vaden Barth. “In doing so, they have characterized anyone who opposes their decisions and those who are resistant to national Pageant changes, primarily the elimination of the iconic swimsuit competition, as troublemakers and a ‘noisy minority.’ This could not be any farther from the truth.”
The plaintiffs argue that the MAO leadership is guilty of mismanaging financial resources; misleading MAO officials about the future of the telecast, its primary source of revenue and greatest PR vehicle; disseminating blatant mistruths especially where state pageant officials and contestants were concerned; manipulating the rules, disregarding established law and ignoring the Organization’s Bylaws to suit their own personal purposes; and lacking fair dealing and transparency in managing the 501(c)(4) nonprofit.
The 35-page lawsuit (available at https://tinyurl.com/ligtigation-documents) states that “Carlson used the rules when it [was] convenient, and ignored them when it [was] an impediment.” Supporters of the Miss America system say that since Carlson became Board Chair in early 2018, anyone in a position of authority who opposed Carlson’s decisions was removed from their positions or illegally forced to resign.
In response to the groundswell of support from the dissenters, Carlson used her illegally obtained Chairmanship to reconfigure the national Board of Trustees, appointing those who would support her decisions to remake the decades-long Pageant telecast (September 9, 2018 on ABC), in favor of those consistent with her own personal brand and agenda. The 2018 Pageant telecast earned its lowest ratings since Miss America Lee Meriwether was crowned on live TV in September 1954.
“This is the first step in restoring the integrity and credibility of Miss America, which has been a cultural icon since 1921,” said Barth, who indicated that further details, evidence and documentation about the legal action would be forthcoming in January 2019.
Arguing the case for the plaintiffs is Paul Perkins, Esq., a skilled litigator, licensed to practice law in both New Jersey and New York. Mr. Perkins represents a variety of clientele from small business owners, nonprofits, individuals, and large corporations doing business internationally. He successfully served as Executive Director for a prominent nonprofit, and today represents several philanthropic organizations in a legal capacity. Mr. Perkins is expected to be joined by co-counsel Emily C. Ward, Esq., a former state titleholder in the Miss America system, as another experienced litigator who represents individual and corporate civil plaintiffs and white-collar defendants in Georgia.
Finally, a message from the organizers of the GoFundMe campaign: We have surpassed the $41,000 mark in our effort to raise funds to defray the costs involved in changing the MAO Leadership, and we sincerely thank those who have contributed. Check out the latest details by clicking on this GoFundMe link. All donations are anonymous to protect the integrity of all supporters. In addition to legal and other costs at the national level, the Fund will help advocate and support ANY State that is in need. Please email [email protected] with questions or further information. We cannot do this without you. And if you cannot afford to contribute, please help us spread the word.