Suspended Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan Files A Complaint Alleging Sexual Misconduct And Corruption

Last week, Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan (who had only just assumed the position in August of 2019) was placed on administrative leave, just days before this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony (on January 26). At the time, Dugan’s lawyer Bryan Freedman said in a statement that he and Dugan “will expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy. Now, Dugan has filed a complaint against the Recording Academy, and it includes some serious allegations.

In the 44-page complaint, which was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday (January 21), Dugan alleges that former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow was accused of rape by an unnamed female recording artist.

The complaint reads, “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.”

The complaint goes on to say that this allegation was “the real reason [Portnow’s] contract was not renewed” in 2019, and that regardless, Dugan was pressured by then-chairman John Poppo to hire Portnow as a consultant and pay him a $750,000 salary.

The Recording Academy responded to the allegations, “It is curious that Ms. Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee.”

Elsewhere, she also alleges that she was sexually harassed by lawyer Joel Katz, who serves as general counsel for the Recording Academy. She claims he “acted extremely inappropriately” at business dinner in March of 2019, and that he attempted to “woo her” and kiss her while commenting on her appearance.

Dugan also accuses the Recording Academy of shady practices with its voting procedures, saying that the Grammys 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.”

Specifically, she gave the example of a song that made the longlist for the 2019 Song Of The Year award, and was ranked 18th out of 20. Regardless, the track made the shortlist, allegedly because the artist behind the song was on the committee and was represented by a member of the Grammys board.

Overall, Dugan attests that the aforementioned conduct was “all made possible by the ‘boys’ club’ mentality and approach to governance at the Academy.”

Find the full list of this year’s Grammy nominees here.