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Ousted CEO files complaint against Recording Academy

by Kari Ashworth - Executive Editor
Thu, Feb 6th 2020 05:00 pm
Former Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan (above) alleges that the
annual Grammy Awards are rigged — mainly the voting. She was fired 10 days prior to the event,
after making her claims.
Former Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan (above) alleges that the annual Grammy Awards are rigged — mainly the voting. She was fired 10 days prior to the event, after making her claims.

The 62nd Grammy Awards was held on Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The night saw 18-year-old Billie Eilish take home five awards, including album, record and song of the year and best new artist — which makes her the first artist since Christopher Cross in 1971 to sweep the top categories. However, the night was overshadowed 10 days prior when the Recording Academy abruptly fired its president and CEO Deborah Dugan. 

According to The New York Times, on Thursday, Jan. 13, Dugan was “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.’” 

The complaint filed came from a past assistant of Dugan, who said Dugan had a bully management style. 

Dugan, however, believed she was fired for an email she sent to Human Resources on Wednesday, Dec. 22, three weeks prior to her dismissal. 

The email, according to The New York Times, detailed a variety of problems within the Recording Academy, including “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.” 

The former CEO outlined an allegation of sexual harassment by Joel Katz, the current legal counsel to the Recording Academy, in which Katz repeatedly displayed “disconcerting and utterly inappropriate” behavior toward Dugan at a private dinner in May 2019. 

Dugan also alleged she had been informed that same month of rape allegations against the former CEO by a foreign recording artist. This complaint claims the board knew of the allegation when Dugan was hired but she was intentionally not informed, according to Pitchfork. 

The complaint also included an outline “of the Grammy’s history of ‘male dominated leadership’ and the underrepresentation of women and minority groups, both in award recipients and Academy membership.” 

While many have believed the Grammys to be rigged for years now, Dugan outlined ways in which they actually were in her complaint. She alleges “the process of voting on Grammy nominees is corrupted by conflicts of interest and used by the Academy’s board of trustees as an opportunity to push forward artists with whom they have relationships,” according to Pitchfork. 

Submissions for the Grammys are typically voted for first by nearly 12,000 voting members, and then those submissions are narrowed down to the top 20 selections. The official nominations are then decided on by nomination committees, and those committees have the ability to nominate artists who are not in the top 20 selected. 

Dugan alleged those on the committee would give nominations to artists they had personal or business relationships with, and she claimed artists who are nominated for a particular award are permitted to sit on the nominating committee for said award. 

According to CNN, Dugan filed a complaint against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Tuesday, Jan. 21, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

“The decision to put Ms. Dugan on leave was clearly made in retaliation for her complaint, and came with thinly veiled threats of termination in the event that Ms. Dugan persisted in pursuing claims against the Academy,” the complaint said. 

The latest on this issue was Dugan asking for the Academy’s Executive Committee to voluntarily release her from her arbitration agreement, which simply means any disputes she has with the Recording Academy must be settled out of court. According to Rolling Stone, Dugan simply wants the truth to come out. 

“While I understand that it might be in your interest to keep the evidence and proceedings behind closed doors, the public and the [music] industry have a right to know what is going on in the Academy, which is a ‘public’ not-for-profit organization,” Dugan wrote. 

This battle will likely continue for some time, but the integrity of the Recording Academy has already been called into question. It will be interesting to see where the Grammys go from here. 

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