COQUILLE — Less than 48 hours after being crowned Miss Oregon USA 2018, Toneata Morgan’s residency in Oregon was called into question by a group of people, allegedly including former title holders, who started a petition to have Morgan’s title removed.

But Miss Oregon USA Pageants NW co-executive producer Maureen Francisco, said Morgan has followed the rules of residency required by the pageant.

“Please help demand a redo of the Miss Oregon USA 2018 pageant, so that a true Oregonian can represent our beautiful state,” said the online petition at thepetitionsite.com, which has since been removed.

An unsigned online message to The World on Tuesday, following the publication of a story about Morgan being crowned, indicated that there was an “ongoing scandal” pertaining to Miss Oregon USA.

“This past weekend, Toneata Morgan, a California resident, was crowned Miss Oregon USA,” the person wrote.

The writer goes on to say that the rules indicate a contestant must have lived in the state they are competing in for at least six months prior to the pageant. The writer then claims that Morgan has been living in and going to school and even competing in pageants in California but stating that she is living in Coquille with her grandmother.

In her interview with The World, Morgan said she’s been living in Coquille with her grandmother for a year but would not give her grandmother’s name, saying she didn’t want to invade her privacy.

Morgan said her roots in Oregon run deep, and that she has relatives who have worked as loggers, fishermen and dairy farmers, with many of them living in the Coos Bay area. As a lover of the outdoors, Morgan said one of her favorite place to spend time is Sunset Bay in Charleston.

Morgan is in her senior year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, studying communications.

And according to the stated rules of the Miss USA pageant, she is allowed to do that and still claim residency in another state.

“Toneata Morgan, a contestant in the 2018 Miss Oregon USA competition who then went on to win the title, has fully complied with all requirements as listed in the rules and regulations of the Miss USA pageant system,” Francisco wrote in an email to The World on Wednesday.

“The rule in question is proof of residency in which she provided the necessary documents (as required by all contestants) to make her eligible for the state of Oregon,” Francisco added.

To prove residency, according to the 2018 Miss Oregon USA rules, a contestant needs to provide at least two pieces of documents that showed date, name and Oregon address at least six months immediately prior to the commencement of the state pageant.

“Toneata fulfilled those requirements,” Francisco said.

Any two of the following documents fulfill the requirements: Driver's license, voter identification card, voter history provided by state, tax return from most recent year, lease or deed for a dwelling, employment documents, telephone or utility bill, etc., and bank or credit card statement.

The rules further state that the "permanent and primary residence" means the state in which one is competing in for a period of at least six months immediately prior to the commencement of the state pageant (although one may attend school, college or university on a full-time basis elsewhere) and employment may sometimes include travel outside of the primary state of residency. "Permanent and primary residence" means a contestant's "true, fixed and permanent domicile" which they intend to make their permanent home. 

In Oregon, the Miss USA pageant has been held since 1951. For many years, Miss USA pageant contestants have been able to choose where they compete, as long as they meet the eligibility rules. 

Sometimes, the motive is to face less competition. Other times, contestants relocate for school, family or work reasons. But if they establish permanent residency or attend school in a particular state and can provide the required documentation, they are eligible to compete in that state’s Miss USA pageant.

Morgan, who is open about the fact that she grew up in California, has competed in several Miss USA Teen and Miss USA pageants in that state, the most recent in November, 2016, but has never won the state title.

Fransicso said Morgan is passionate to educate youths about online bullying and about supporting veterans and the military. She looks forward to speaking at schools and other organizations where positive role models are needed to encourage young people to go after their dreams and goals.

“Throughout her reign, Toneata will talk about her platforms dear to her heart: Cyberbullying, spreading kindness and supporting our veterans,” Francisco said.

“She was just crowned on Sunday,” Francisco added. “Already, she has talked to at least five media outlets regarding her platforms. She has written a blog, which will be posted in the next few weeks. It has only been 72 hours since she's been crowned. She is hitting the ground running.”

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