Former President and CEO of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan, has been officially fired, NPR reports. The organization, responsible for the Grammy Awards, told its members on Monday, “This decision of the Board, with full support of the Executive Committee, was based on: Two exhaustive, costly independent investigations relating to Ms. Dugan and the allegations made against her and by her.” They did not provide the results of those investigations.
Dugan replaced figurehead Neil Portnow (who resigned from his position after he told women they needed to “step up” to win Grammys) in 2019. The Academy later placed Dugan on leave from her position, 10 days before this year’s Grammy Awards due to “concerns raised to the Recording Academy board of trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team,” The New York Times reported. Some staffers believed her removal might’ve been a “coup” to disrupt her plans for systemic change in the antiquated organization. Days later, Dugan filed a 44-page complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in which she alleged a slew of unsavory behavior: sexual harassment, voting irregularities, conflicts of interest, a toxic “boys’ club” mentality, and an accusation that Portnow raped an artist. She also claimed that Joel Katz, an Academy executive affiliated with an outside law firm, attempted to “woo” and kiss her without permission.
According to the statement the Recording Academy released to its members, “Ms. Dugan’s consistent management deficiencies and failures, and other factors,” caused “the elected leaders of the Academy to conclude that it was in the best interests of the Academy to move on.” Those particulars appear to be conveniently obscured. When NPR followed up for comment, the Recording Academy requested the publication submit questions via email. The Academy informed NPR that “all [Dugan’s’] allegations against the Recording Academy are categorically false and that the allegations made against her are true,” but the means of sharing that information is questionable at best.
Dugan shared the following statement with Variety following her termination:
“I was recruited and hired by the Recording Academy to make positive change; unfortunately, I was not able to do that as its CEO. While I am disappointed by this latest development, I am not surprised given the Academy’s pattern of dealing with whistleblowers. Is anyone surprised that its purported investigations did not include interviewing me or addressing the greater claims of conflicts of interest and voting irregularities? So, instead of trying to reform the corrupt institution from within, I will continue to work to hold accountable those who continue to self-deal, taint the Grammy voting process and discriminate against women and people of color. Artists deserve better. To me, this is the real meaning of ‘stepping up.’”
Her lawyer, Doug Wigdor, added:
“The Academy’s decision to terminate Ms. Dugan and immediately leak that information to the press further demonstrates that it will stop at nothing to protect and maintain a culture of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, corruption and conflicts of interest. The decision is despicable and, in due course, the Academy, its leadership and its attorneys will be held accountable under the law.”
Will the Recording Academy ever specify what Dugan’s “consistent management deficiencies and failures” were? Will they actually respond to the multitude of allegations set forth in the 44-page complaint? I won’t hold my breath.