The messy situation surrounding the firing of Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan just got way messier.
The Recording Academy dismissed Dugan last week — just 10 days before this weekend’s ceremony, just five months after she replaced the outgoing Neil Portnow to become the first woman to hold the job. The Academy’s justification for this move was “a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team.” The New York Times reported that a former assistant of Portnow’s had complained about Dugan’s bullying management style. Notably, this all went down less than three weeks after Dugan sent a memo voicing concerns about systemic problems within the Academy including financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and voting irregularities.
As The Wrap points out, in a discrimination complaint filed today with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dugan provided more details that cast her allegations in an even more serious light. Dugan’s complaint alleges that Portnow, her predecessor, “allegedly raped a female recording artist, which was, upon information and belief, the real reason his contract was not renewed.” The complaint specifies that while attending a three-day meeting of the Academy’s Board at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel last May, “Ms. Dugan was hauled into a conference room and told — for the very first time — that a foreign recording artist (and member of the Academy) had accused Mr. Portnow of raping her following a performance that she gave at Carnegie Hall.” Dugan did not provide the artist’s name or any further details about the alleged rape.
Portnow has yet to comment on the allegations, but the Academy has issued the following 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 organization. Our loyalty will always be to the 25,000 members of the recording industry. We regret that Music’s Biggest Night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan’s actions and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.
Dugan’s lawyers responded in turn:
Ms. Dugan repeatedly raised concerns throughout her entire tenure at the Academy, and even gave large presentations focused on diversity and inclusion at Board meetings. The Academy has lost its way and abandoned the recording industry, instead focusing on self-dealing and turning blind eye to the “boys’ club” environment, obvious improprieties and conflicts of interest.
It was never Ms. Dugan’s intention to turn this into a public fight precisely because of her love for music and the members of the recording industry. Unfortunately, staying silent was made impossible by the Board’s repeated leaks and disclosures of false and misleading information to the press.
Additionally, Dugan’s lawyers dispute the financial details offered by the Academy:
On the morning of the day she was put on leave, the Academy offered Ms. Dugan millions of dollars to drop all of this and leave the Academy. The Board Chair demanded an answer within the hour. When Ms. Dugan refused to accept and walk away, she was put on leave. The Academy claimed that Ms. Dugan was put on leave based on accusations made against her over a month prior that the Board knows very well are meritless. That is not a credible story.
Dugan’s camp also alleges that the Academy knew about the rape allegation against Portnow before she was hired but tried to pretend it had just learned about it upon presenting her with the information in May. They allegedly pressured her to rehire Portnow as a consultant with a $750,000 annual salary. In addition to the allegations against Portnow and the Academy at large, Dugan’s complaint alleges that Joel Katz, the Academy’s general counsel, sexually harassed her during the three-day meeting in May.
Between this and the (far less serious) Aerosmith imbroglio, Music’s Biggest Night™ looks likely to be tense. Dugan’s complaint is posted in full below.