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December 20, 2018

Miss America Organization affiliates sue chairwoman, CEO as pageant may be leaving Atlantic City

Miss American Organization chairwoman Gretchen Carlson, who spearheaded the group's fade out of the swimsuit competition, is facing a civil lawsuit alongside CEO and President Regina Hopper.

The lawsuit was filed by former board member Jennifer Vaden Barth, as well as four Miss America pageant state organization licensees, including Pennsylvania, Tennesse, West Virginia, and Georgia. The lawsuit asks the judge to void the actions of Carlson and Hopper and restore the MAO to practices from before they took their roles.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, claims Carlson and Hopper "orchestrated an illegal and bad-faith takeover of the Miss America Organization." The complaint accuses Carlson of breaking MAO bylaws by making herself chairwoman of the Board of Trustees and for appointing Hopper without conducting a national search for CEO first, among several other points of contention.

Public criticism from MAO members regarding Carlson's leadership is not new, with many speaking out after the pageant went swimsuit-free. In October the MAO threatened probation and even termination for officials not adhering to new policies.

"This is the first step in restoring the integrity and credibility of Miss America, which has been a cultural icon since 1921," Barth, formerly Miss North Carolina, said to USA Today.

The lawsuit comes after news broke that the MAO is currently shopping around for a new location for the pageant to call home, potentially leaving its longstanding place in Atlantic City, where the first pageant was held almost 100 years ago. Multiple outlets reported the organization put out a call for proposals to interested cities.

The MAO's partnership with Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, receiving $12 million from the authority for the last three pageants, expired this year. The authority has not yet reached a deal for the 2020 and 2021 pageants, prompting MAO to look elsewhere.

If the pageant does leave, it won't be the first time. The competition was held in Las Vegas from 2006 through 2012.

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