Grammys CEO Alleges Sexual Misconduct And Corruption In Recording Academy

Just five days before the biggest night in music, Chief Executive and President of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan, has not only been suspended on allegations of misconduct, but has filed her own 44 page legal complaint against the Academy itself in response. 

The Recording Academy is obviously responsible for organizing the Grammy Awards every year. Award season seems to always be rooted in controversy, favoritism, and political rhetoric, and typically, most of the heat is directed towards the Academy itself, and while that’s also the case in this situation, there’s never been an internalized issue to this magnitude so close to the show date itself. 

In her legal complaint, Dugan made multiple allegations of voting corruption within the Academy and how it chooses the winners yearly. However, this piece of information is being slightly overlooked by the much more serious accusation against former Chief Executive of the Grammys, Neil Portnow. Portnow was Dugan’s predecessor from 2002 to 2019, and the reason he was removed from the position has everything to do with the allegation made against him. 

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Recording Academy president and CEO Deborah Dugan

“Ms Dugan was hauled into a conference room and told – for the very first time – that a foreign recording artist (and member of the academy) had accused Mr Portnow of raping her following a performance that she gave at Carnegie Hall. The news was presented to Ms Dugan as though the board had just learned of the allegation. In reality, they were well aware of the allegation at the time Ms Dugan agreed to take on the CEO position, but never told her,” according to the legal complaint filed by Dugan’s team.

Further into the complaint Dugan also claims that chairman of the Academy, John Poppo, later pressured her into “rehiring Portnow as a consultant with a $750,000 salary.” This legal issue, as you can likely tell, has been a constant tennis match of allegations against each other, less than a week before the Grammys nonetheless. 

The academy released a response to Dugan’s complaint claiming that it was “peculiar” she decided to file a lawsuit a week after her suspension following her own allegations of misconduct. In the allegations against Dugan, members of the academy, including the current interim chief, claimed she created a “toxic and intolerable” environment for her employees and was “abusive and a bully” to everyone under her. The Academy also claimed that Dugan demanded a “severance” of $22 million for her resignation, a claim she has since refuted. 

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To make a basic timeline of events so far: while Dugan was acting Chief Executive, she filed a complaint with her higher-ups regarding voting corruption within the Academy, to which they responded with a multi-million dollar offer for Dugan to drop everything and resign. When she refused their offer, they put her on leave and the allegations against Dugan were filed. Once legal action against Dugan was taken, she took it upon herself to write a 44 page legal complaint with her team in which she outlines all of this, her original complaint with the Academy, and newer accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct within the Academy, in particular the accusation of rape against Neil Portnow. 

Specifically, Dugan’s complaint claims that “the Grammy’s board has decided to shroud the process in secrecy, and ultimately controls, in large part, who is nominated [and] manipulates the nominations process to ensure that certain songs or albums are nominated when the producer of the Grammys [Ken Ehrlich] wants a particular song performed on the show.”

Dugan’s allegations are just another part of a long list of complaints that many viewers, artists, producers, etc. all have with the Grammys. Many artists in the past have called out the Academy for white washing the awards, and have since boycotted attending. The 2020 Grammy awards are this Sunday, January 26th, and will be hosted by Alicia Keys for the second year in a row. It will be interesting to see how much of this behind the scenes legal drama will make its way to all of our screens.