ATLANTIC CITY — Representatives of the Miss America Organization have been meeting with local stakeholders to discuss the future of the event following an email scandal that cast doubt on its future in the resort.
Mayor Frank Gilliam said he spoke with new Miss America Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson about two weeks ago. The conference call also helped change Gilliam’s view on the future of the event in the resort.
“They are trying to right the wrongs of the previous administration,” he said, adding it’s a good move on their part.
On Jan. 1, the Miss America Board of Directors appointed Carlson, who was Miss America 1989, as chairwoman. The board shakeup and resignation of Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell followed the release of emails containing abusive and lewd comments about past contestants.
“We are appreciative of our Atlantic City partners and look forward to continuing conversations with the numerous people who have expressed an affinity with Miss America and want to play a role in its promising future,” Carlson said in a statement.
Gilliam said in December the scandal offered the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority “a great opportunity to pull out of the contract.” This year’s event, which is expected take place in September, will receive more than $4 million this year in funding from the state agency.
The change in leadership at the organization contributed to Gilliam changing his opinion on the event staying in the resort.
Since the scandal, three former Miss Americas, three former state titleholders and two former executive directors of state competitions have been elected to its Board of Directors.
“I was premature in my decision,” Gilliam said. “I’m going to support making sure that Miss America remains here. I think it would be a disadvantage to women to have this pageant leave here.”
Gilliam and Miss America officials are expected to talk again March 1.
“We are grateful for Mayor Gilliam’s words of support as we work to rebuild the Miss America Organization and further integrate women’s empowerment, leadership and the importance of social impact advocacy into the fabric of our mission,” Carlson said in a statement.
Despite his support for the project, Gilliam said, something has to change with the amount of funding that is being provided to the group.
In 2016, the CRDA approved a three-year, $12.5 million contract with Miss America. Instead of paying $2.7 million per year as the state agency did during the previous contract, the state agency saw its contribution increase annually, topping out at $4 million for this September’s event.
"We had some preliminary talks, but everyone knows that the price tag will not be that high moving forward,” Gilliam said.