ATLANTIC CITY — The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority knew last October — two months before the disclosure of vulgar emails that led to a shakeup of the Miss America Organization — that Dick Clark Productions had severed its ties with the pageant, newly released correspondence reveals.
But the CRDA, which still has $4 million left in a three-year, $12 million contract subsidizing Miss America for the State of New Jersey, took no action until Dec. 19, when a letter was sent to Michael Mahan, president of Dick Clark Productions, and Sam Haskell, then-CEO of Miss America, asking to discuss a possible breach in their three-way contract.
The letter, though, mentioned first a breach that occurred because Atlantic City was not mentioned during the Dick Clark-produced 2017 Billboard Music Awards in May, a failure the authority executive, Christopher M. Howard, described as "a clear material breach of the agreement."
On Page 2, the letter mentioned CRDA's concerns being "exacerbated on Oct. 25, 2017," when Dick Clark Productions "advised the authority that DCP is terminating its relationship" with the Miss America Organization. The letter said Miss America had never informed the authority of the severed tie with its broadcast partner.
"It is unclear to the authority whether DCP and MAO can fulfill the remainder of their obligations in the absence of a relationship," the letter said. "Remarkably, despite being advised by DCP that its relationship with MAO will be terminated, the authority has yet to be contacted by MAO regarding the dissolution of its relationship with DCP."
"The authority is very concerned about the impact of the dissolution of the DCP-MAO affiliation, its effect on the agreement and whether either party can fully perform their [obligations] under the agreement."
The correspondence, and emails related to the controversy that rocked Miss America, were released in response to an Open Public Records Request made by the Inquirer and Daily News.
It was not until two months after the CRDA was informed that Dick Clark Productions had severed its ties with Miss America that the state agency apparently learned what was behind that breakup, when the story broke on HuffPost on Dec. 21. The story described emails sent by since-terminated CEO Haskell and a writer with the organization, and reported that Dick Clark Productions had terminated the relationship with the organization after being informed of the emails in August.
In its report, HuffPost reported emails ridiculing former Miss America winners, describing them with vulgar language, and gossiping about their sex lives. Other than terminating the writer who corresponded with Haskell, the organization took no action until the emails were made public and initially said it considered the matter resolved. Since then, with a huge outcry among Miss America winners and others, most of the board has been replaced, with former Miss America Gretchen Carlson now the board chair.
In emails beginning the night the story broke, the CRDA scrambled to come up with a statement responding to the news, with a staff member at one point advising adding the misspelled word discusting to describe the behavior reported by HuffPost in addition to disturbing.
In the statement that was ultimately released, it settled on troubling.
Their responses Dec. 21 seem to indicate that the CRDA lawyers, at least, were finding out for the first time along with the public about the nature of the breakup of Dick Clark Productions and Miss America.
"Disturbing," attorney Craig Domalewski emailed in response to CRDA director Howard's email with a link to the HuffPost story. "Sheds some light on DCP termination. Let's discuss."
Another consultant, Michael Rowe of Positive Impact Sports & Entertainment Consultants, wrote to CRDA general counsel Paul Weiss: "Guessing MAO partners had some warning this was being investigated and coming out, thus their breakup. Ugly expose."
Weiss responded: "Agree with Craig. This is rather disturbing, I'm available to discuss."
On Dec. 29, Howard emailed a group of city and state officials with two updates.
First: "Dick Clark Productions has agreed to have Ryan Seacrest briefly talk about Atlantic City on the New Year's Rockin' Eve program in order to make up for lost opportunities with the Billboard Music Awards and the live remote performances we had previously discussed.
"Ryan will mention a few of the evening's activities in AC, including large parties, concerts, and fireworks," during the 10 to 11 p.m. hour.
Second, Howard noted, "we are continuing our review of the Miss America agreement and evaluating our legal options, and we anticipate a full briefing at our next meeting." That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
Howard's email concluded by reporting that Robert Mulcahy, chairman of the CRDA board, had advised staff and board members to refrain from public comment on the matter.
Howard did not respond for a request for comment Thursday morning, nor did the Miss America Organization respond to an emailed request for comment. Late Thursday, Warren Cooper, a spokesman for Carlson, said she "would very much like to provide a statement" at a future time.
Since the news broke, local and state elected officials, including Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr., and local state legislators have called on the CRDA, a state organization funded with casino tax revenues, to sever the costly subsidy for Miss America, whose presence in Atlantic City has become more of a tolerated annual oddity than the cherished local tradition it once was.