Ousted CEO Sues Grammys

Deborah Dugan describes harassment, conflicts of interest at Recording Academy
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2020 6:03 AM CST
Updated Jan 22, 2020 6:59 AM CST
Ousted Grammys CEO: It Was Retaliation
Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan participates in the 62nd Grammy Awards nominations press conference in New York on Nov. 20, 2019.   (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Ousted days before the Grammys, former Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan is hitting back. In a 46-page complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dugan claims she was put on leave after complaining of "egregious" conflicts of interest; a "boys' club" mentality; and sexual harassment by the Academy's general counsel and former chair of the Board of Trustees, Joel Katz. Dugan says Katz tried to kiss her, called her "baby," and noted "traveling to my many homes could be something nice for us to share" during a May 2019 dinner, per Rolling Stone and the Hollywood Reporter. Katz denies this, though Dugan says such language continued "in every one-on-one conversation" afterward. Around the same time, she says she learned that a "foreign recording artist" had accused former CEO Neil Portnow of rape.

She claims board members only told her of the claim after she accepted the CEO position and refused a request to "hire Mr. Portnow as a consultant for the hefty sum of $750,000." Dugan notes a claim that she created a toxic work environment came from Portnow's former executive assistant, per the New York Times. Dugan further alleges improper spending; self-dealing by board members; and corruption in the Grammy nomination process, which involves "secret committees" of board members who represent "artists with whom they have relationships," some of whom take part in selection meetings. An Academy rep tells Rolling Stone that Dugan instructed HR "not to take any action" in response to her concerns before demanding $22 million. But Dugan's lawyers say it was actually the Academy that offered Dugan "millions of dollars to drop all of this." (Read more Grammys stories.)

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