Deborah Dugan, who succeeded Neil Portnow as CEO of the Recording Academy after he stepped down last year, has been removed just 10 days before the Grammys ceremony, The New York Times reports. The lawyer and former (RED) CEO had only held the position since August — less than five months.
In a statement late Thursday, the Recording Academy said that Dugan has been placed on administrative leave “in light of 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.” According to “a person with direct knowledge of the events,” an assistant to Portnow who worked temporarily for Dugan filed a complaint accusing her of a bullying management style.
Notably, Dugan’s dismissal also arrives less than three weeks after she sent a memo voicing concerns about the Recording Academy’s practices to the organization’s head of human resources. She said that something “was seriously amiss at the Academy,” raising issues regarding voting irregularities, financial mismanagement, “exorbitant and unnecessary” legal bills, and conflicts of interest involving members of the academy’s board, executive committee, and outside lawyers.
“What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told,” Dugan’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, added in a statement. “When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy, a public nonprofit.”
In 2018, the Academy faced criticism when Dugan’s predecessor, Neil Portnow, said that women needed to “step up” to win more awards at the Grammys. During her brief tenure as CEO, Dugan approved a series of changes to the organization’s structure recommended by a task force to address diversity and gender imbalance issues and settled a lawsuit filed by a longtime MusiCares employee who said that she had been wrongfully terminated because of a toxic “boys club” environment at the Grammy-affiliated charity.