Former Recording Academy president and CEO, Deborah Dugan, who was ousted over misconduct allegations, has filed a lawsuit against the Recording Academy claiming she was put on administrative leave after she threatened to take legal action over alleged sexual harassment and misconduct involving the Academy’s general counsel, Joel Katz.
Dugan filed a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences on Tuesday. She also noted in the lawsuit that the Academy’s board manipulates the Grammy process, The Hollywood Reporter reports.
As Baller Alert previously reported, Dugan was placed on administrative leave on Thursday, and the Recording Academy released a statement explaining the organization launched a probe into the misconduct allegations made against her. But Dugan’s lawyer came back with a statement for the former CEO and told THR that Dugan’s right to respond to the Academy was “restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats.” In her complaint, Dugan claimed that she told HR that music lawyer Katz had sexually harassed her on Dec. 22. In addition, Dugan said she told HR she was asked to hire former CEO Neil Portnow as a consultant and pay him $750,000. Katz was let go after “making misogynistic remarks about woman recording artists.” Dugan went on to say that Portnow’s contract was only discontinued because he was accused of raping a female artist and that the allegations made against her to the board were from Portnow’s executive assistant.
Portnow responded to Dugan on Wednesday, calling her claims “ludicrous and untrue.” In a statement to THR, Portnow wrote, “An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted, and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations, and once again, I deny them unequivocally.” Dugan’s email described the work environment at the Academy as a “boys’ club” and complained of “egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members and voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards,” according to her complaint. She said men at the company “work together to the disadvantage of women and disenfranchised groups in order to line their own pockets and maintain a firm grip of control on the Academy’s dealings.”
Dugan said that she gave the Academy notice that she would go public with her claims, and that’s when the organization backed out of the almost-closed settlement and only gave her an hour to make a decision on the new offer before removing her. While Dugan claims the company is defaming her, she acknowledges that the complaints made against her happened prior to her complaint to HR. However, she says she wasn’t removed until she revealed that she would be pursuing legal action.
The broader picture of this story is how Dugan claims the Grammy Awards come about. Dugan said submissions are voted on by Academy’s 12,000 members, and then the top 20 selections are reviewed by “secret committees,” which are chosen by the board chair and head of awards, Bill Freimuth. The 20 potential nominees are then narrowed down to five or eight. The gag is, Dugan alleges that the board pushes for “artists with whom they have relationships” and sometimes add artists who were never in the original 20 selected submissions. In addition, Dugan claims they also allow artists who are being considered for a nomination sit in on the committee votes being made for their category and fixes the voting process to make sure certain songs are nominated if Ken Ehrlich wanted the song to be performed during the show.