BUENA PARK — Local pageant officials announced Monday that the reigning Miss Buena Park, crowned only two months ago, will be stripped of her title because of a breach of contract.
State officials, who concurred with the decision, said the 26-year-old winner apparently provided misleading information about her school attendance.
Merlyn Lans, executive director of the Miss Buena Park Scholarship Pageant, made the announcement during a press conference but refused to say why April Lynch of Huntington Beach had been disqualified.
After making her announcement, Lans officially handed over the title to first runner-up Deborah Donnelly, 25, of La Palma, who will now receive the $1,000 scholarship originally set aside for Lynch.
Later, after conferring hastily by conference calls, officials of the Miss California Pageant said they had to go along with Lans' decision.
Robert Arnhym, president of the Miss California Pageant, said Lans presented them with enough evidence to show that, while Lynch had registered as a student at Cypress College, she had not been attending classes. Pageant rules say contestants must live or attend an accredited school in the cities of Buena Park, La Palma, Cypress or Fullerton in order to be eligible. The winner enters the Miss California Pageant.
"We do not have any information to the contrary to the information provided by Mrs. Lans," Arnhym said.
"It is a tremendous disappointment to us," he said, adding that Lynch had entered local beauty pageants before. "She has never qualified to the state finals until this year. Unfortunately, we don't have any alternative."
One of the pageant contestants said that after Lynch won the crown in February, some of the other contestants and their parents told Lans that they suspected Lynch was not actually a student at Cypress College.
The Miss Buena Park Pageant is a preliminary to the Miss California and Miss America pageants. Up until three years ago, the pageant was sponsored by the Buena Park Chamber of Commerce. It is now a privately run, nonprofit franchise that was started by Lans in December of 1989.
Lynch said Monday night that Lans was aware that she was not actually attending classes.
"From day one, Merlyn was aware of every situation. She told me I could enroll full time and later drop the classes," Lynch said tearfully.
She said if she had known that she wasn't eligible to be Miss Buena Park, she would have gone to another pageant where she was eligible. Lynch said she has a bachelor's degree from the University of California at San Diego, and that she will begin classes at UCLA in September to get a certificate in radio and television broadcasting.
"This was my dream," she said. She has competed for six years in a variety of local pageants, taking first runner-up five times, "This was my only opportunity to go to Miss California."
Because she is 26, she is not eligible next year.
It is not the first time that trouble has visited the Miss Buena Park pageant. Last year several contestants threatened to take then-executive director Maria Sorensen to court because they said they did not receive their scholarship money.
Sorensen, who now resides in San Diego, said one of the contestants failed to attend the annual Silverado Days festivities as stipulated in her contract, so she was not entitled to the money. The other contestant, she said, did not fill out her paper work correctly for the scholarship funds. Sorensen said the contestants have since received their money.