2020 Grammys: What Deborah Dugan’s Claims Reveal About the Recording Academy

The 2020 Grammy Awards air on Jan. 26, but this year the awards show has a problem. The Recording Academy is currently dealing with a behind-the-scenes battle against its former president and CEO Deborah Dugan.

Deborah Dugan Recording Academy
Deborah Dugan | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Deborah Dugan was put on administrative leave by the Recording Academy

On Jan. 16, Dugan was put on administrative leave by the Recording Academy. This occurred just 10 days before the Grammy Awards and not even half a year after Dugan became CEO.

Dugan first became CEO in August 2019. She was the Recording Academy’s first female CEO and president. Her appointment was considered to be part of the Recording Academy’s efforts to distance itself from former president Neil Portnow. In 2018, Portnow infamously said women need “to step up” in order to be nominated.

As CEO and president, Dugan made it clear she wanted to rebrand the Grammys and give voices to minorities and others who were not fairly represented.

These efforts came to a halt when Dugan was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 16 after someone filed a complaint accusing her of misconduct.

According to the Los Angeles Times “… it was said to be leveled in December by ‘a senior female member of the Recording Academy team,’ and a New York Times report categorized it vaguely as ‘bullying.'”

Deborah Dugan filed a complaint against the Recording Academy

According to The New York Times, Dugan filed a HR complaint against the Recording Academy a few weeks before she was placed on leave. Allegedly, the complaint raised concern about the organization’s practices.

These concerns ranged from “voting irregularities, financial mismanagement and ‘exorbitant and unnecessary’ legal bills, as well as conflicts of interest involving members of the academy’s board, executive committee and outside lawyers.”

The interim CEO of the Recording Academy Harvey Mason Jr. then leaked a memo that accused Dugan asking for a multi-million dollar contract buyout.

The former CEO also filed a complaint with the EEOC

On Jan. 21, Dugan filed a 44-page complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the complaint, she accused Joel Katz, an entertainment lawyer, of sexual harassment.

However, this was not the only troubling accusation in the report. The complaint also alleged that Portnow “raped an unidentified ‘foreign’ female performer.” Dugan alleged that she learned of the assault during a May 2019 board meeting. Portnow denied the allegations.

Deborah Dugan suggested the voting process is ‘rigged’

On Jan. 23, just three days before the Grammy Awards, Dugan appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC Nightly News. On CBS This Morning, Dugan was asked if the voting process for the Grammy Awards was rigged.

“In that room, not only are there trustees that have conflict of interests on particular artists that are nominated, but, more importantly, there are even artists that are nominated that are in the room. So for me, that’s just a blatant conflict of interest,” Dugan said.

She continued, “There’s a system of taking care of their own. I’ll say that it’s mostly white males that are in those rooms that make these decisions.”

“So rigged is the term you would apply to it?” Dugan was asked.

“Yes, it is,” she said.