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Friday, July 20, 2012

Miss Oregon fiasco: How could it happen?

The resignation of Rachel L. Berry from the title of Miss Oregon 2012, on grounds that she was ineligible to hold that title, has led several readers to ask us the pointed question: If she wasn't eligible, because she was not an Oregon resident six months before her local preliminary pageant, then how was she allowed to compete? It's a good question, and one that KATU's Anna Canzano asked last week. She reported then that the head of the pageant, Dana Phillips, told her that Berry had produced a copy of the lease of her house in Aloha, signed on January 1, 2012.

That is a curious answer, because such a lease would not on its face show that Berry qualified. Since her local pageant was on April 21, 2012, she would have had to have been an Oregon resident no later than October 21, 2011. What else did Berry produce as proof of residency, and if she didn't produce anything else, why did the pageant officials look the other way?

The only way to answer that would be to ask Berry herself, or to ask the officers and judges at the Miss Oregon competition. Good luck with that, as KATU reports:

We also spoke with Berry by phone on Thursday. She said she was disheartened, but couldn't say more because she signed an agreement preventing her from talking about what happened.

The director of the pageant here in Oregon has not returned our calls.

But for what they're worth, here are the lists of pageant officials -- perhaps a bright young journalist somewhere would like to take a crack at the unanswered questions:

Officers (sources: Oregon and IRS filings)
Dana PhillipsSeasideExecutive Director or President
Nancy McCuneSeasideSecretary
Sue PickellSeasidePast or Current President
Karen MurraySeasidePast or Current Vice President
2012 Judges
Don AccuardiAstoriaRetired
Craig CampbellSalemLobbyist
Leigh Gettman-AllenDallas, TXModerator and diversity trainer
Jai HarrelsonBurlington, NCPublic relations
Carol HenryLubbock, TXModeling agency

UPDATE, 1:17 p.m.: Berry's father blames the pageant director.

Comments (30)

"she signed an agreement preventing her from talking about what happened"

I wonder what the motivation would be to sign such a document?

This is kinda like requiring all the athletes who play for UO and OSU be "Oregonians," complete with leases and utility bills to back it up.

Hey, if you live here now, and will live here until further notice, you're an Oregonian. And that pretty describes all of us, no?

"Miss Oregon fiasco: How could it happen?"

Easy - Its Oregon and we still think Wyden is "our" senator.

From what little I understand about such things there is a good deal of shuffling around of contestants in order to maximize their chances of "winning". It's basically what they can get away with.

Well thanks for somewhat following up Jack. I know Miss Berry did not provide any false documents trying to prove her residence and that is what ended up being her demise. She did not attempt to cover up anything. Pageant officials knew the residency issue would come into question and they knew that Rachel did not have the definitive proof that she would ultimately need---yet they deemed her eligible before, during, and after both pageants---and it was not them that ultimately deemed her ineligible. They totally screwed this up, yet Rachel is the only one who stepped down. Seems pretty easy to bring down the 24 year old girl who can't hide behind a bunch of attorneys. You should be calling for the Miss Oregon Pageant director to step down immediately as that is where the real fault lies!

Hey, if you live here now, and will live here until further notice, you're an Oregonian. And that pretty describes all of us, no?

The Oregon pageant folks could have certainly written their rules that way. And who knows, maybe they should have, although as Portland Native points out the rule is probably meant to avoid the sort of carpetbagging/venue-shopping that has apparently happened in this case. But in any case the rules are what they are, and anyone who chooses to participate knows (or should) what the rules are and implicitly agrees to abide by them.

I agree with Jack and others that the onus to explain all this is really on the pageant folks, particularly Ms. Berry's Seaside mentors. Whether or not Ms. Berry was trying to game the system -- I'm willing to believe she wasn't -- the pageant had clearly defined rules they were apparently unwilling or unable to enforce. I'm willing to believe it was not a conspiracy, just volunteers with day jobs who inadvertently let the rigor of their qualification process slip a bit. But clearly to restore and maintain any credibility from here on out they're going to have to be sticklers for following their own rules.

You WON Jack.

Now you want to appeal?

If you really want to stop residency and document fraud, how about tackling document fraud by ILLEGAL ALIENS if you have so much time.

Touchy, touchy.

Jack didn't "win". He's just the messenger here. The truth won.

She had to sign an NDA? That ought to be a big red flag for any future contestants. We're not talking about national security or trade secret recipes here. That's a legal CYA for someone involved and you know the saying... "Where there's smoke...".

Don't Metro execs have to do the same thing?

Really Eric? Sticklers from here on out? Why are you guys suddenly afraid to go after the ones who allowed this problem to occur? Why do they deserve another chance? Don't be naive about volunteers making a mistake "because they are too busy"---certainly not the case with the top officials who knew this could blow up and then threw the girl under the bus instead of taking the heat off of her and admitting they screwed up. The real mistake that Rachel made was trusting the top authority who said she was eligible when they knew she would have a hard time proving it.

And John R---the truth hasn't one...Rachel just isn't allowed to tell the truth.

Who cares? This is a private company that owns this "Miss Oregon" title. So they screwed up and awarded their dumb title to the wrong babe. No law was broken. There is no risk to their tax status. It's much to do about nothing. Move on.

Well an awful lot of people seemed to care about it over the past week. And if it is "much to do about nothing" then perhaps they should issue a press release saying in fact that they are the ones who screwed it up? Doubt that will happen because they probably would not want their picture in the Washington Post or Miami Herald with the word controversy in the headline. Your work is far from done Jack...

The Oregon Pageant has an interest in keeping the residency requirement rather loose, enabling them to attract strong contestants from other states. Maybe that's what happened here, maybe Rachael was recruited. We will never know.

Were I a "sponsor" of the Miss Oregon pageant, and therefore have put up money or in kind donations I would be upset that my hard earned dollars were being spent by people who don't seem to be especially responsible or trustworthy.

This is a private company

This is a private nonprofit company. It doesn't get to do anything it wants.

The pageant folks made a mistake, and handled it poorly. In the absence of criminal behavior or actions in violation of their nonprofit charter, though, we have to leave it at that. Anyone who wants to take this further and punish the volunteer pageant organizers is free to bring a lawsuit, campaign for the board's ouster, withhold their support or donations, or start their own competing pageant.

The state attorney general's office has a section that deals with charitable activities. Since this is a nonprofit organization, I believe that that office has some jurisdiction here and could act on a complaint.

"This is kinda like requiring all the athletes who play for UO and OSU be "Oregonians," complete with leases and utility bills to back it up"

No it is not. Residency is spelled out in the RULES for the Miss Oregon pageant. Don't like the rules, then lobby to change them. Complaining about them when they don't work for you is childish.

Her father blames the pageant director???

The buck stops with no one in the family it seems.

Nonprofits do file incorporation papers with the state. One could review those papers for the Miss Oregon pageant to see if the pageant directors' behavior violated their state-granted charter or the state's rules for charities. I think it would be a stretch, though, since it seems it would be hard to prove this was anything more than a mistake (or at least that's what the directors would claim). But sounds like some of Ms. Berry's supporters are just fired up enough to try.

Amusingly, the following Manta description for Dana:

Miss Oregon Scholorship
217 Broadway Street
Seaside, OR 97138-5805 map
Phone: (503) 738-8326
Miss Oregon Scholorship in Seaside, OR is a private company which is listed under membership organizations, nec. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $180,000 and employs a staff of 4.

I can see how this fiasco might have occurred, based purely on that entry.

More than $10,000 at stake:

Yes. In addition to the automatic scholarship granted to Miss Oregon when she wins the pageant, Miss Oregon earns appearance fees for the majority of the events she does throughout the year.

The latest IRS form shows gross of about $110K:

I believe that that office (state AG's office] has some jurisdiction here and could act on a complaint

The keyword here is "could".

I would love someone to look into the Miss Oregon budget... $180,000 brought in to a program that claims to be 100% volunteer driven.... so where does the money go? Also... read the fine print... Miss Oregon claims to "offer" scholarship monies to many are actually given out? This is Miss America's dirty little secret....follow the money, Jack.

Seems the biggest sponsor for Miss Oregon is Red Robin:

The rest seem to be smaller, in-kind donations...

the local that miss berry won before she became miss o
Miss Three Rivers / Portland / Clackamas Pageant

Director: Julie Fleck / Email:


I see their latest numbers as being $140,000/yr

Are you looking at the Oregon Scholarship Foundation? PO Box 1099?

I don't believe that the Miss Oregon Organization is non-profit....

They are running 2 different companies under the Miss Oregon Umbrella (I think)

Miss Oregon claims to "offer" scholarship monies to many are actually given out?

Probably not many because none of the winners ever seem to be in school. The ones who win are always finished with college and talk about maybe, maybe going to grad school some day. The odds of that happening are slimmer than some of the winners.

So.... Does the CEO make a salary? If so, I'd be curious to know how much. And if the women never actually use the scholarship money, where does that money end up?


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