Ex-Grammys CEO alleges sexual misconduct, discrimination, and corruption

Deborah Dugan, who was removed from her position just days before the Grammys, claims there’s a culture of discrimination at the Recording Academy

Deborah Dugan – the former president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts, who was removed from her job just days before the Grammy Awards ceremony – has alleged that there is a culture of sexual and racial discrimination at the Recording Academy and the Grammys, the New York Times reports.

In a complaint filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Los Angeles office by Douglas Wigdor, Dugan’s lawyer, she alleges that she was sexually harassed during her five-month tenure, and placed on leave in retaliation for raising concerns about a “boys’ club” mentality, corruption, and a cover-up of rape all plague the Academy.

Dugan’s complaint alleges that Neil Portnow – the former Grammys CEO, who was let go after claiming that women need to “step up” to win more awards – was in fact fired for raping a female recording artist, and that the board covered this up. The complaint also states that the Academy’s board were scheduled to vote for a bonus for him, even though not all of its members had been told about the accusation.

She also states that voter corruption and conflicts of interest have led to an overrepresentation of white and male awards winners in the past. The complaint claims that the Grammys board sway the category nomination review committees (which review the top selections for nomination that have been voted on by the 12,000-member Academy) to push nominations for artists who they want to perform at the ceremony or have relationships with.

The complaint says that “it is not unusual for artists who have relationships with Board members and who ranked at the bottom of the initial 20-artist list to end up receiving nominations”, and that the board “is permitted to simply add in artists for nominations who did not even make the list”. 30 artists who were not selected by the Academy membership were allegedly added to the nominations this year, leading to highly ranked artists like Ariana Grande to miss out on nominations.

Dugan adds that the Grammys staff regularly face racial and gender-based discrimination. Previous Chief Information Officer Megan Clarke had been told she would be fired if she did not resign after complaining to HR about being harassed by a male board member, according to the complaint, and that one black Grammy museum employee was fired after she raised concerns about diversity within the Academy. A gay black employee was also harassed “to the point that he had a mental breakdown”, with colleagues posting a picture of him with exaggerated lips in the office.

As Entertainment Weekly reports, the Academy responded in a statement: “It is curious that Ms. Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee who alleged Ms. Dugan had created a ‘toxic and intolerable’ work environment and engaged in ‘abusive and bullying conduct’. When Ms. Dugan did raise her ‘concerns’ to HR, she specifically instructed HR ‘not to take any action’ in response.”

“Nonetheless, we immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan’s potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations. Both of these investigations remain ongoing. Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave only after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organisation.” Dugan’s complaint says that the $22 million claim was “flat out false”, and that Dugan “repeatedly raised concerns throughout her entire tenure at the Academy, and even gave large presentations focused on diversity and inclusion at Board meetings. In addition, it is not just Ms. Dugan who has raised concerns. As alleged in the charge, artists, other board members and employees have all raised virtually all of the concerns raised by Ms. Dugan.”

The 46-page document can be read here.