Ousted Grammy CEO files damning complaint on eve of awards | Music | DW | 22.01.2020
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Ousted Grammy CEO files damning complaint on eve of awards

After Deborah Dugan was suspended by the Grammys last week, she filed an explosive complaint Tuesday saying her ouster came after she raised concerns about sexual harassment, voting irregularities and other misconduct.

On January 16, the organizers of the Grammy Awards, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, placed its new president and chief executive, Deborah Dugan, on administrative leave after an allegation of misconduct.

But Dugan has hit back with a 44-page complaint before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Los Angeles, which states that the Academy retaliated against her after she detailed sexual and other forms of misconduct at the institution.

Dugan's wide-ranging sexual harassment and discrimination allegation comes just days before the annual music industry showcase is set to take place on Sunday night in Los Angeles. 

Symbolbild Grammys 2013 (picture-alliance/dpa)

How will Dugan's complaints affect the Grammys on Sunday?

Multiple rape allegations

In her complaint, Dugan alleges that she was asked to hire predecessor Neil Portnow as a consultant, despite allegations that he had raped a foreign female recording artist.

The complaint states that the rape accusation — in which an unidentified artist accused Portnow of raping her following a performance at New York's Carnegie Hall — was "upon information and belief, the real reason his contract was not renewed."

Dugan replaced Portnow as CEO of the Recording Academy last May, becoming the first woman to lead the organization.

In an echo of the #MeToo movement, the complaint also details a December 22 email that Dugan sent to the head of the Academy's human resources department stating that she'd been sexually harassed by Joel Katz, an attorney who is general counsel to the Academy. Howard Weitzman, an attorney representing Katz, said his client "categorically and emphatically denies" the charge.

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"The email also detailed egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members and voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards, all made possible by the 'boys club' mentality and approach to governance at the Academy," the complaint states.

Indeed, the Recording Academy created a task force in 2018 to respond to widespread claims that the Grammys are consistently too male and too white, and took steps to increase opportunities for black and female artists the following year.

Meanwhile, Dugan's complaint adds that after sending the email, Dugan put the Academy on notice that she planned to take legal action.

Claims disputed

While Dugan alleges that the Academy retaliated against her by putting her on leave on trumped-up charges of misconduct, in a statement to press agency AFP, the Recording Academy disputed Dugan's claims and said her actions would cast a shadow over the upcoming awards show.

"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 who alleged Ms Dugan had created a 'toxic and intolerable' work environment and engaged in 'abusive and bullying conduct,'" the statement reads.

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The statement added that Dugan was only placed on administrative leave because she offered to step down, and alleged that she demanded $22 million from the Academy, a non-profit organization.

But entertainment industry publication Variety has reported that two sources who are "close to the situation" said the allegation that Dugan demanded money is "outrageous" and "completely untrue."

Variety also noted that Claudine Little, Dugan's former assistant who initially lodged the misconduct complaint against Dugan, was planning to use the attorney Patty Glaser, who was also hired by Harvey Weinstein to fight sexual assault allegations.

In another twist, Dugan's legal team now includes the New York lawyer Douglas Wigdor who is representing an unnamed litigant accusing Weinstein of sexual assault.

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sb/eg (AFP, Reuters) 

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