Deborah Dugan fired after “two exhaustive, costly independent investigations”

Deborah Dugan fired after
Deborah Dugan fired after "two exhaustive, costly independent investigations"

The president and CEO who was brought in to change the culture behind the Grammy Awards — and whose tenure lasted only five months — has been fired.

The Recording Academy on Monday officially fired Deborah Dugan, its former president who alleged sexual harassment and corrupt Grammys voting, among other things.

In a letter sent to members March 2, the academy said it reached the decision after “two exhaustive, costly independent investigations” about Dugan, who has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 16. It said the reviews found “consistent management deficiencies and failures,” though no specifics were offered.

Dugan was placed on leave amid a complaint about her treatment of a longtime Recording Academy employee. The move put the Recording Academy without a president just 10 days before the 62nd Grammy Awards.

“The investigation overwhelmingly confirmed the serious complaints that had been lodged against her by a multitude of Academy staff members,” said Tammy Hurt, vice chair of the academy’s National Board of Trustees. “The damage she has caused this organization is truly heartbreaking.”

Dugan, who was the first woman to lead the Recording Academy, had been on the job barely six months. She replaced longtime head Neil Portnow, who in 2018 suggested female artists should “step up” if they wanted to be recognized in the music industry. Dugan previously served as the CEO of Bono’s (RED) organization.

“While I am disappointed by this latest development, I am not surprised given the Academy’s pattern of dealing with whistleblowers,” it reads. “Is anyone surprised that its purported investigations did not include interviewing me or addressing the greater claims of conflicts of interest and voting irregularities? So, instead of trying to reform the corrupt institution from within, I will continue to work to hold accountable those who continue to self-deal, taint the Grammy voting process and discriminate against women and people of color. Artists deserve better. To me, this is the real meaning of “stepping up.””

After being placed on leave, Dugan raised several issues about the way the organization ran and accused its top lawyers of acting inappropriately toward her during a business meeting.

In a complaint she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dugan accused the academy of improper self-dealing by board members, voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards, shunning her attempts at fostering diversity and transparency, and other misconduct. She alleged she was sexually harassed by academy general counsel Joel Katz, saying the lawyer lured her to a fancy dinner in May, called her “baby,” tried to kiss her and suggested that the two of them “spend time together.”

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