The Press Club of Dallas has filed a lawsuit against its former president, accusing her of rigging the club's 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 Monday in Dallas County District Court, accuses Elizabeth Albanese of "dishonest and fraudulent activity."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages plus 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.
Phone messages left for Albanese and her attorney were not returned Tuesday.
The club's board of directors was scheduled to meet to discuss the status of an internal investigation and the future of the club.
Albanese became involved with the judging of the Katie Awards around 2003, the year she began winning the coveted prizes. She was president from August 2005 until March 2007.
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 Albanese could not 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.
During most of her tenure as press club president, Albanese was Dallas bureau chief for The Bond Buyer, a New York-based financial publication aimed at people in the municipal bond industry.
She was fired late last month from her job as vice president of communications for First Southwest Co., an investment banking firm in Dallas, after questions about the contest surfaced.
Top editors at several of the region's largest media outlets, including The Associated Press, said last week they would return their discredited awards if the press club's investigation shows that recent competitions were rigged.