Four on Miss Maryland executive board retiring Panel was entangled in 1995 suit alleging pageant was rigged

January 23, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Four executive board members of the Miss Maryland pageant are retiring, decisions they made after an ugly controversy rocked the beauty contest last year and entangled them in a lawsuit alleging that the pageant was rigged.

Among those leaving is Charles Skinner, executive director of Miss Maryland since 1977, who said yesterday that he "has run out of gas" and wants to pursue other interests. He denied that his retirement has anything to do with last year's controversy or the lawsuit, filed by an angry contestant.

"I'm nearly 60 years old, and I just decided it was time to move on. My wife and I want to move on to a new phase of our lives," said Mr. Skinner of Bel Air.

Mr. Skinner's wife, Beverly, is an associate board member and also is retiring.

The other two retirees are the board's executive vice president, Lynn Moreland, and its president, Patricia Skebeck. Board members are volunteers and oversee the Miss Maryland pageant.

Last year's pageant was hotly contested both on the beauty runway and in the courts by Linda Yueh, the runner-up who claimed board members tampered with the judges and told them to assign her lower scores.

One of the judges said in an affidavit that her claim was true and said that board members -- apparently concerned that her eligibility was in question -- did not want Miss Yueh to win.

Miss Yueh filed suit in Atlantic City, N.J., seeking monetary damages and asking a judge to block the contest's outcome so she may compete in the Miss America contest.

The judge, however, upheld the results of the contest.

Thomas O'Connell, an attorney representing Miss Maryland's executive board, said that the remainder of the lawsuit is near settlement.

He said the retirements of the four board members are "absolutely in no way part of any settlement."

Mr. O'Connell did say, however, that the lawsuit has been a tremendous strain on the board members and probably contributed indirectly to their decisions to call it quits.

"No pressure was applied. This wasn't a quid pro quo arrangement," Mr. O'Connell said. "But psychologically, the lawsuit took its toll on these people. It perhaps brought on their decision to retire."

Miss Yueh couldn't be reached yesterday. In July, at a news conference where she wore her tiara and carried a trophy, she accused the board of tampering with the contest so that Marcia Griffith was named Miss Maryland.

Miss Yueh won preliminary competitions in swimsuit, interview and talent but received runner-up.

David Kendall, one of the judges, said in an official statement that he was told by a chief judge three hours before the competition to "reverse the scores" so that Miss Yueh wouldn't win.

The other side claimed at the time that Ms. Yueh deceived pageant officials about her residence. Rather than living in Washington and being a law student at Georgetown University, officials said she really lived in Cambridge, Mass., and attended Harvard University as a doctoral candidate in public policy.

Competitors for the Miss Maryland title must be residents of the state or of the district.

As proof of residency, Miss Yueh gave pageant officials her gym card, a library card, bank statements and affidavits from her Washington landlord.

But contest officials still had concerns about residency, noting that she had a Texas driver's license, was a registered Democrat in Massachusetts, and was enrolled at both Harvard and Georgetown

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