The Press Club of Dallas has filed a lawsuit against its former president, accusing her of rigging the club’s prestigious journalism competition for at least the last two years.
“We feel like we have been defrauded,” current President Tom Stewart said Tuesday. “We think this is appropriate as the next step to take.”
The suit, filed in Dallas County District court Monday, accuses former President Elizabeth Albanese of “dishonest and fraudulent activity” during her involvement with the press club.
Albanese engaged in fraud, breached her fiduciary duty to the press club and violated the Texas Theft Liability Act, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks for actual, statutory and punitive damages and also requests Albanese pay the club’s attorney fees, expenses and court costs.
“I believe both the press club and the press club foundation have suffered serious economic damage as a result of her actions,” Stewart said.
The club’s board of directors are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the status of their internal investigation and the future of the club.
Phone messages left for Albanese and her attorney were not immediately returned Tuesday.
Albanese became involved with the judging of the Katie Awards around 2003, the same year she began winning the coveted prizes. She was president of the press club from August 2005 until March 2007, according to the lawsuit.
The Katie Awards have been distributed for 48 years by The Press Club of Dallas to reward the top work by journalists and communications professionals in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
The integrity of the competition has been in doubt in recent weeks as press club members learned that their former president can’t name any of the judges involved in the 2006 or 2005 competitions. The 2004 Katies are also under investigation, Stewart said.
Board members also allege financial mismanagement by Albanese, who has won 10 awards in the last four years. Albanese also charged — and has since repaid — more than $10,000 in personal expenses to a press club credit card, Stewart said.
When Albanese ran for press club president in 2005, her platform included a promise to “maintain complete transparency of all financials for the club,” according to press club documents.