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Monday, July 23, 2012

California Rachel's other Oregon pageant

If Oregon seems a little off-kilter this morning, maybe it's because for the first time in memory, there is no reigning Miss Oregon. The Miss Oregon who won the title on June 30, Rachel Berry, resigned nearly four days ago after this blog demonstrated that she did not meet the residency requirement for the position and thus was ineligible to compete.

Remembering the speech Bert Parks used to make just before announcing the last results at Miss America, we assumed that the first runner-up in the Miss Oregon contest, Nichole Mead of Newport, would promptly be named Berry's successor. But here it is more than half a week later and there's been no announcement confirming that. It's puzzling, but not as puzzling as the circumstances surrounding the Berry fiasco. We're still scratching our head about how she was allowed to compete if she was not eligible.

We suggested last week that the directors of the Miss Oregon pageant be pressed to come forth with an explanation, but none has been forthcoming and readers have suggested that none will be. Another group that ought to have some questions posed to it is the local pageant that Berry won here in the Portland area on April 21. The main point of that local pageant is to send three or four women to the state contest in Seaside, and so if Berry wasn't eligible to compete in the state competition, why was she allowed in the local? In her only on-camera appearance so far in the Berry flap, Miss Oregon head honcho Dana Phillips blamed the local pageant director.

The local affiliate of the Miss America organization is called Miss Three Rivers. This year it awarded three titles in its senior division: Miss Three Rivers, Miss Willamette Valley, and Miss Portland. Its website banner alludes to a Miss Clackamas instead of a Miss Willamette Valley, but no Miss Clackamas was crowned this year. Berry won Miss Willamette Valley. Mead won Miss Three Rivers and shows up higher than Berry on the winners' list. Miss Portland was won by Kaitlin Endres. First runner-up, who should have gone to Seaside had Berry not done so, was Ashley Cranston.

The information sheet and registration form for Miss Three Rivers is here. It points out that any winner of the local contest must attend the entire week of Miss Oregon in June as well as something called Miss Oregon Pageant Camp in May. Presumably that means as a contestant, which necessarily implies that one would have to be eligible to compete for Miss Oregon; links are provided to the Miss Oregon and Miss America websites, which both show the residency requirements. Curiously, however, there's no discussion of residency on the Miss Three Rivers entry form.

There is a separate page on the Miss Three Rivers website with eligibility rules set out. They state:

Here is where things get odd indeed. The six-month residency rule is clearly set out for Miss Portland and Miss Clackamas, but there's nothing about length of residency for Miss Three Rivers or Miss Willamette Valley. Why is that?

Contestants in those last two competitions are advised to direct eligibility questions to the pageant director, Julie Fleck. Fleck, who gives a Happy Valley address on this state filing, is not only the director of the pageant, but also the mother of Miss Oregon 2005, Lucy Fleck. Did Berry ask Julie Fleck about eligibility in the state meet, and if so, what did Fleck tell her? And how could someone become Miss Willamette Valley and not be eligible to go to Miss Oregon?

The Miss Three Rivers information sheet has two other names on its masthead: Vicki Mills-O'Donnell and Yvonne Peebles. This duo is part of a threesome that runs a local children's theater program known as Krayon Kids. (The troupe performs in the same Oregon City theater in which the Miss Three Rivers shindig is held.) Perhaps Mills-O'Donnell or Peebles can shed some light on what was said between Miss Three Rivers and Berry. Finally, the state corporate filing shows the secretary of Miss Three Rivers to be Pam Stauffer of Vancouver, Washington.

One thing is for certain: If Berry or either of the pageants ever comes clean on what happened, it is going to be hard for any of them, including Berry, to plead ignorance of the rules. Fleck and Phillips are both long-time veterans of the pageant scene. And Berry was actively coached and mentored by Connie Benson, a California attorney and former Astoria pageant winner, who currently directs the Miss City of Orange pageant and the Miss Orange County pageant, both of which Berry previously won. (In another on a growing list of curiosities, the copyright notice on the Miss City of Orange home page lists Benson's mother, Lynda Benson of Prineville, Oregon, as copyright owner.) In any event, ignorance of the rules, even if it were an excuse, does not seem a plausible factor in what happened. (Our prior stories linked here.)

Comments (25)

Henry The Fourth, Part 2 Act 3, scene 1, 26–31

King Henry:
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Or in this case a tiara.

..."Fleck, who gives a Happy Valley address on this state filing, is not only the director of the pageant, but also the mother of Miss Oregon 2005, Lucy Fleck..."

Doesn't that seem odd? Virding's mom also is a director, as is several other mothers of former contestants. That is so OBVIOUS, its hard for me to imagine the other parents and gurus are able to keep a straight face.

In most contests, sweepstakes, giveaways, etc, family is out of the running. Why isn't it in this case? So if I don't want to pay for my daughter's first semester of college tuition, all I need to do is become a "pageant director" and get her "crowned" and give her a scholarship donated by my "sponsors"?

Virding's mom is also a director? Which pageant is that?

I think it was Washington county or the now defunct Tri Valley?? Can't remember exactly but it was one of them I believe. And if she wasn't a director she was a secretary or recruiter? Either way, it seems like an unfair advantage to have mom on the board.

Speaking as a volunteer (from big bad California), it is not uncommon for parents to become involved after their daughters are done competing. That is most likely the case with Virding and Fleck although I don't know that.

Melody Virding (Kari Virding's mother) is a field director which means she volunteers for the Miss Oregon organization and oversees numerous locals to ensure they are in compliance with Miss America and Miss Oregon rules. The Miss Three Rivers pageant is, I believe, one the local pageants she supervises. It might be different in Oregon, but in California, one of the tasks of a field director is to make sure that all of the contestants entered in the local are eligible to enter the local.

That's really fascinating. I first got interested in the shadowy world of scholarship pageantry when it appeared Kari state-hopped back to Oregon while she was still serving as Miss Covina, Cal.

May I remind you that all involved in the Miss Oregon Organization are volunteers? From the local directors all the way up to the State Director (Dana Phillips). Not one single person is paid for their time or efforts. As such, many families of former winners get involved after their daughters "years of service." NOT before as "Ouch" is implying.

There may be no salaries, but money flows and favors flow.

Former, you are leaving out that many of the moms (and directors)are former contestants themselves. As such, there is a pretty good sized network of people who all know each other. Does that mean there's underhandness going on? No but it doesn't mean there isn't yet. My experience around pageants says there is.

Before we start blaming the volunteers of this organization let's remember that Rachel Berry ultimately signed a contract that said she was eligible. The contract states what the eligibility is and isn't. When the contestant signs the contract they are stating that they know the rules and they qualify. Rachel may have THOUGHT she qualified because she was somehow partly living in Oregon and partly living in California. I don't know what her rationale was. There is no way at a local level the directors can check out everyone's eligibility. At Three Rivers and Cascade which are both run by the same people there were over 40 contestants between Teens and Miss. Some of those contestants joined within a week of the competition. Ultimately, the contestant must UNDERSTAND the contract and it's requirements just like any other contract.

Must be enrolled in or plan to persue a post-secondary education

Evidently, literacy's not a requirement.

One last point. It is a testament to the organization that so many moms are involved after their daughters are done. The experience is life altering. Seeing a daughter grow into a confident, community minded and polished young woman makes you want to give back. Competing in the MAO system is no different than competing in sports. There are always negatives, but the positives generally outweigh them. You really need to lighten up on these people, and hold Rachel responsible for her lies.

Ultimately, the contestant must UNDERSTAND the contract and it's requirements just like any other contract.

No one's excusing Rachel. But we still do not know what proof of residency she provided, and if it didn't show that the rules were met, why it was accepted.

Nichole Mead, Ashley Cranston, and others apparently did not get what they signed up for, and by your logic, that's a breach of contract by the pageants against them.

I don't disagree that Rachel should be held accountable for her actions, however, there is no way she could have done what she did and got as far as she did with out assistance from volunteers in Oregon. The assistance either came in the form of extreme incompetence or it was an intentional effort. Either way, accountability is called for.

I know one activity my daughters are never, ever, ever going to be allowed to get involved in if I have anything to say about it. This stuff stinks to high heaven.

If you watch that clip from her on AM NW you actually catch her in two lies. Before she says she has lived in Oregon about a year, she says her first pageant "like ever" was Miss City of Orange while in high school. According to the article in the Fort Wayne paper she was Miss Allen County 2006, which is in Indiana and was a graduate of Carroll High School. There is a Carroll HS in Indiana, but I can't find a Carroll HS in California nor can you fine a Miss City of Orange in Indiana. I am not sure Rachel knows where she's ever lived!

Caliguy--Rachel is being held accountable for the officials whose determination she relied upon.

I will clear some of the questions up.
First, Miss Three Rivers and Miss Willamette Valley are what you call open divisions. Any lady from anywhere in the Northwestern Corner of Oregon can compete. So if a gal was in a local in Washington County and didn't win, she could compete again. There are several opens in Oregon for that "second chance" at a local title.

Next, Melody Virding (former Miss Oregon 2007 mom), along with Darla Harman (Miss America 2002's mother) are volunteers for the pageant and the right and left hand of Dana. Melody goes to the locals, overseeing the judging and production and gives feedback as a field director. She sometimes makes appearances with the winner. Melody's daughter and 2 sons also volunteer. Darla Harman was for many years the scheduling person for Miss Oregon but from time to time has to step away because Katie will be a judge or what not (she has been known to coach a contestant or two, Donnilee McGinnis, Miss Oregon 2006 I believe). Many of Melody and Darla's personal friends have been invited to volunteer with high up positions within the organization, all to make them feel important, while some people are completely black listed by Dana and the others follow suit as to not feel her wrath!

A former contestant of theirs, in rogue valley, had her directorship taken away from her because she won the title of Mrs Oregon America (a completely different venue because you have to be married!) because Dana does not approve of any for profit pageants (like having people come to Seaside and listen to the constant reminders of Phillips Candy Store as a wonderful sponsor isn't a for profit decision). But they let a former Mrs Oregon America contestant AND titleholder become directors. Nothing makes sense with this organization! I am all for making money but don't bash others for what you do under the umbrella of scholarship and volunteerism.

The buck stops with Berry! The next is the lack of follow through from the directors of Three Rivers (maybe they thought she wasn't going to win and one more contestant means one more ads, raffle basket, and a bunch of tickets sold $$$) Pageants do not make a profit, hard to believe, but they do not. You barely make enough to cover all of the costs and a little start up for next year.

The Miss Oregon Scholarship Program has been under the watchful eye of many who believe that there is "funny business" that goes on, especially after the top 10 are picked that the ED (Phillips) has a chat with the judges, wonder why that is? HMMM. It is a hens nest that picks and pecks. I am glad that finally, after all of these years, some light is being shed on the whole thing was brought to light by your investigation. This action has brought redemption to the rest of us on the outside of the circle.


The Miss Oregon officials relied upon Rachel to tell the truth. She did not. she liked on her local, then state, and finally national paperwork. She lied to the media, and she probably lied to Dana Phillips if asked about her residency.

The worst thing is that Miss Berry has shown not one ounce of remorse. She's only sorry she got caught in her lies.

Should the local pageant have required more than a signed affidavit from Miss Berry? Yes... but Rachel is the one who lied...

I'd really like to see a copy of her signed contract....which should be made public, since it's a non-profit, right? Then I'd like to see her up for federal fraud charges for attempting to steall $10,000 from a non profit....

jb...Jim Berry (Rachel's Dad)?

I'd really like to see a copy of her signed contract

I think we'd all like to see the proof of residency she showed. Dana Phillips told KATU that it was a lease dated January 1. Of course, that does not satisfy the rules and should have been rejected, but it wasn't.

They kept saying something about notarized documents. If they were false and notarized, isn't a notary held accountable too? Just curious....

The contestants must have the contract notarized. The notary is only responsible for ensuring that the correct person is the one signing the document - they are not responsible for what the document says. The notarized document is merely proof that Rachel did indeed sign it, not proof that what is said in it is true - although by signing it Rachel did claim that it was true.

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