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Date Posted: 13:45:51 12/20/18 Thu
A former board member of the Miss America Organization, as well as four Miss America pageant state organization licensees, filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary court injunction to remove MAO chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and President and CEO Regina Hopper.
The suit filed in Atlantic County Superior Court alleges that Carlson and Hopper "orchestrated an illegal and bad-faith takeover of the Miss America Organization."
Jennifer Vaden Barth, a former Miss America state titleholder who was announced as a board member in March and later forcibly resigned a few months later, is named as the plaintiff, along with the Miss Pennsylvania, Miss Tennessee, Miss West Virginia and Miss Georgia pageants.
According to the complaint, beginning in January, Carlson defied the organization's bylaws on several occasions including making herself sole chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, appointing Hopper without a national search for a CEO and enacting pre-signed resignation letters of elected Miss America board members Barth and Valerie Crooker Clemens in June.
Barth previously told The Press of Atlantic City that the MAO was in need of "good, strong, ethical management and leadership there ... and we don’t have that.”
On Sept 23, Barth started the "MAO Leadership Change Fund" on the crowdsourcing website GoFundMe. Since then, more than 300 donors have raised $41,832 to retain New Jersey corporate and nonprofit attorney Paul I. Perkins of Kim & Bae, P.C.
In the months following this year's pageant, one of four letters were sent to the board of directors of the 51 state organizations that send contestants to the national competition. The letters either detailed the termination of the state organization's operating license, a notice of default on the state organization agreement, a notice of possible license termination or a request for information regarding the state organization board of director's actions against the MAO.
The complaint states "while failing to set forth any specific facts or circumstances that would constitute a default under the State Organization Agreements, the termination letters stated that 'MAO hereby notifies the state organizations that MAO has terminated the State Organization Agreement effective immediately by reason of the State Organization Agreement'."
Perkins states the terminations violated the state licensing agreements and were improper under New Jersey law.
Two months before the Miss America 2019 Competition, state pageant executive directors signed a "vote of no confidence" online petition, stating they wished to see MAO chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and President and CEO Regina Hopper step down from their leadership roles.
A few signatures were rescinded leading up to the pageant, but allegations of workplace bullying by then-reigning Miss America 2018 Cara Mund led to a movement of 41 state organizations, 23 former Miss Americas and more than 23,000 local pageant volunteers supporting Mund and calling for the current leadership to resign.
Seven states; New Jersey, New York, Florida, Georgia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have had their franchise-like licensing through the State Organization Agreements revoked.
This story is developing. Check back later for more on this story.
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