PHILADELPHIA — Lawyers for the Miss Universe Organization have filed an arbitration action that seeks monetary damages from a former contestant who claims this year's Miss USA pageant was a sham, officials said Friday.
The organization filed the action with a private dispute resolution entity over the former Miss Pennsylvania USA's claim that another contestant spotted the list of finalists on a planning sheet hours before the event was held Sunday, outside counsel Scott Balber said.
A statement from the New York-based Miss Universe Organization said it is seeking remedies including monetary damages for her "ongoing defamatory statements." Balber would not say how much money organizers are seeking.
The pageant also released a statement from Miss Florida USA — the contestant Sheena Monnin claims saw the list — in which she disputes Miss Pennsylvania's version of the events that prompted her to step down.
Monnin gave up her crown Monday, claiming in a Facebook post that the pageant had been rigged, with the top five finishers selected before the show was broadcast Sunday night from Las Vegas. Pageant organizers immediately denied Monnin's allegation and claimed she had actually stepped down because she disagreed with the pageant's decision to allow transgender contestants.
Earlier Friday, Monnin told NBC's "Today" show that she was standing by her claim that Miss Florida USA confided in her that she'd seen a list of finalists Sunday morning.
"I know what I heard, and I know what I in turn witnessed come true based on what the contestant said she saw," Monnin said.
Monnin claimed Miss Florida USA Karina Brez named the top five contestants in the same order they were called during the broadcast.