The Miss America Organization has failed to pay nearly $100,000 in legal bills to Fox Rothschild, the firm alleges in a lawsuit against the pageant organization.
Fox Rothschild filed a complaint Wednesday in New Jersey state court against the nonprofit that runs the annual Miss America pageant. The firm says Miss America—which is currently hosting its annual pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey—owes $98,206.90 for legal services.
The suit, filed in Atlantic County Superior Court, seeks damages of at least that amount, plus attorney fees and interest.
According to the complaint, Miss America executive chair Gretchen Carlson has previously acknowledged the debt. In March, she communicated to the firm, “‘We are not disputing the total services billed … and I am hoping your firm will consider extending payment of these fees to the second quarter.’”
The firm sent a pre-action notice to the organization in July, the complaint said, but the organization has made no payments.
Fox Rothschild did not indicate in the complaint what kind of legal services it was providing to the Miss America Organization, or how long it was a client of the firm.
A spokeswoman for Fox Rothschild said the firm does not comment on ongoing litigation. A spokesman for the Atlantic City-based Miss America Organization said it would respond in its answer to the complaint and declined to comment further.
The organization faced scandal last year, and resignation of top officials including CEO Sam Haskell, when HuffPost released a number of emails in which Haskell and others in the organization’s leadership disparaged former winners of the pageant and made sexist comments about them.
Under the leadership of its new chairman, Carlson, and CEO, Regina Hopper, the organization announced this summer that the competition would no longer include a swimsuit competition and contestants will no longer be judged by their physical appearance.
Earlier this month, current Miss America Cara Mund wrote a letter accusing the organization of silencing her by instructing her to stick to specific talking points and not allowing her to do certain interviews. The organization responded in a statement that the letter “contains mischaracterizations and many unfounded accusations.”
Fox Rothschild’s suit was filed just as this year’s competition was kicking off. Preliminary competitions are currently underway in Atlantic City, and the televised competition is set to take place Sunday.