By MIKE CHAIKEN
A petition is being circulated to force the current board of directors of the Miss America organization to step aside and bring in a new board following the recent scandal that forced Sam Haskell, the organization’s former CEO, to resign his post. The president, Josh Randle and Chairwoman Lynn Weidner also stepped aside. The rest of the board of directors remains.
Haskell’s tenure started to unravel after Huffington Post published a story containing private emails from Haskell and other Miss America officials that disparaged former title holders and even wished for the death of another. The story ended up costing Miss America its television deal with the Dick Clark Productions and has put in jeopardy funding provided by Atlantic City, N.J.
The petition for the board’s ouster garnered 3,700 signatures in 24 hours.
The Miss Connecticut Scholarship Organization is part of the Miss America Organization.
Among those targeted in Haskell’s emails was Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan. She is now leading the charge to wipe the slate clean in the Miss America Organization’s Board of Directors.
In a press release issued by Change.org, Hagan—whose sex life and weight were disparaged in Haskell’s emails uncovered by HuffPo– wrote:
“In a continued exhibition of poor judgment, the current board of the Miss America Organization—which decided not to take action when appalling statements by Executive Chairman Sam Haskell were presented to them in September, and stood by Mr. Haskell while expressing ‘full confidence’ in his leadership—has now voted up a new process that they alone control. The majority of remaining board members plan to stay on, and expect to nominate and elect replacements for those who have resigned. While asserting that they want input from a variety of stakeholders, they will be the final decision makers regarding who is added to their ranks. This is unacceptable and will only further damage the organization. The board needs to accept responsibility for the damage they have already caused, and step aside quickly to allow new leadership to save the Miss America program.”
Hagan, in an email interview, said she had a different vision of how the Miss America Organization should move forward.
“As of right now, roughly 40 Miss Americas have come together and nominated Gretchen Carlson as the only viable option we are willing to accept for the new, interim MAO board chair,” said Hagan. “Beyond that, we would like to see other former Miss Americas take on leadership roles, for an interim basis, to transition to new leadership, assess the current MAO staff, and work to move the program forward in a positive direction.”
“Personally,” Hagan said, “I would like to see a diverse Board of Directors for Miss America. It will be important moving forward that the individuals involved are ready to work hard, take their jobs seriously, and provide a strong network to steer the direction of MAO toward true women’s empowerment.”
In addition to a change of leadership, Hagan also would like to see the implementation of policy changes at MAO. “I would like to see a sort of (human resources) committee form within the new Board of Directors. This is something I would be very interested in heading up.”
“The previous leadership failed to address issues among state and local directors across the country and therefore this culture of leadership has trickled down,” said Hagan. “I would like to be a part of making sure that bad apples are no longer attached to our tree.”
If a new board is put into place at MAO, Hagan said– if asked– she would willingly serve.
“I didn’t become a sacrificial lamb, so to speak, to not offer up my experience and wisdom in this process,” said Hagan. “Aside from this news, I am a third generation participant/volunteer within the organization. I hold the values and mission close to me and will always work to make sure that the brand my name is attached to is doing what it should for the women involved.”
Once the Haskell era is put in the past of the pageant, Hagan said, “The Miss America Organization should be a place where scholarship opportunities and service opportunities meet sisterhood and empowerment. Every board member, employee, volunteer and representative should be focused on the greater good of the women around them. The organization would, ideally, be a place where women feel uplifted, heard and validated in who they are— as they are— by everyone involved.”
Although the organization has seen a tumultuous past few weeks, and Hagan suffered a variety of indignities under Sam Haskell, she still believes in the organization.
“The journey I went through in the Miss America Organization is, in part, why I am the strong force for change you see today,” said Hagan. “Throughout the 15 years, I have been a part of MAO, I have learned that my voice matters and it’s important to #StandUP for what I believe in, myself and others.”
“Miss America, no matter who she is, is an advocate for social and political change,” said Hagan. “I look forward to seeing the women who represent it continue to do what they have always done: serve others.”
And to the women now competing at the local level of Miss America—such as Miss Connecticut– and who are worried about what the future holds, Hagan told them, “If we stand together, how can we fall apart? All of us are pros at putting our time and energy into other causes for service/change. Let’s focus inward on our own organization and we’ll be sure to get the job done.”
The Miss Connecticut Scholarship Pageant will be at The Palace Theater in Waterbury June 5 to 9.
The petition is available at https://www.change.org/p/miss-america-volunteers-call-for-removal-of-all-miss-america-board-of-directors-12-27-17