Lawsuit on 'takeover' of Miss America pageant is withdrawn

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — A lawsuit claiming "an illegal and bad-faith takeover" of the Miss America Organization was withdrawn Monday for financial reasons, with the pageant responding it proves the "meritless and misguided nature" of the case.

The lawsuit had been brought by former board member Jennifer Vaden Barth, who is also a former Miss North Carolina, and several state pageant organizations.

Vaden Barth said that she withdrew the lawsuit due to a lack of financial resources but that it was dismissed without prejudice, leaving the door open for future litigation.

Numerous state organizations have opposed the new direction and leadership of the pageant. Last year's competition eliminated the swimsuit portion.

"I continue to believe that this organization is being led unethically, using intimidation tactics, primarily to serve personal agendas, and by those without the business skills necessary to manage and improve the financial health of the organization," Vaden Barth wrote in a statement Tuesday.

But continuing the litigation, which was filed last December, "will cost at least as much as we have already raised," she said.

The suit was filed on behalf of Vaden Barth and pageant organizations from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Georgia. It asked a judge to void the actions of Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper, and sought restoration of the situation that existed before the two assumed control of the Miss America Organization.

In a statement Tuesday, the Miss America Organization said Vaden Barth's withdrawal of the lawsuit "is a reflection of the meritless and misguided nature of her suit and her false and defamatory claims. MAO disagrees with Ms. Barth's characterization of the dialogue regarding ending this lawsuit and is now assessing its next steps."

At a hearing in January, a New Jersey judge refused to block the Miss America Organization from carrying out changes to some of its state pageant leadership groups, even as he called on both sides to try to work out their differences. At that hearing, Tim Davis, a lawyer for the Miss America Organization, chalked up the opposition to "a vocal minority that is unwilling to accept change."

A lawyer for the plaintiffs rejected that characterization, saying 46 out of 50 state organizations eventually called for new national leadership of the Miss America Organization.

Both sides had advanced settlement proposals, Vaden Barth said, but no agreement was reached.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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