Ousted Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan officially fired

In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, file photo, Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan participates in the 62nd Grammy Awards nominations news conference at Studio 43 at CBS Broadcast Center in New York City. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File

The Recording Academy officially fired former president and CEO of the Grammy AwardsDeborah Dugan, earlier this week.

The decision — made by the organization’s Board of Trustees — comes more than six weeks after Dugan was placed on administrative leave and only five months after she claimed the title of CEO from her predecessor, Neil Portnow, last August.

News of her dismissal was confirmed in a letter shared to members of the academy on Monday, according to CNN. Accrediting the decision to “exhaustive investigations” into Dugan, the note read:

“Dear Members, as you know, Deborah Dugan has been on a paid administrative leave of absence since Jan. 16, 2020. We are writing to let you know that, earlier today, the Board of Trustees voted to terminate Ms. Dugan’s employment as President/CEO of the Recording Academy.”

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Grammy trophies sit in the press room during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 28, 2018, in New York City. Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Dugan was ousted by the organization last month — only a week before the 2020 Grammys — after being accused of being “abusive” toward and “bullying” one of her female employees — which the academy said was one of multiple complaints.

The Recording Academy wrote that the decision to fire Dugan was reached after “two exhaustive, costly independent investigations” into those allegations. Though it offered no specific details, the organization said the investigations found “consistent management deficiencies and failures.”

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Dugan, however, suggested her ouster was a corrupt act of retaliation from the academy for her having called it out on multiple fronts.

Throughout her time working for the Grammys, Dugan sparked an abundance of controversy.

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She is best known for not only questioning the integrity of the annual award show’s nominations process by suggesting it is “rigged,” but for accusing one of the academy’s main attorneys, Joel Katz, of sexually harassing her via a memo sent to the “corrupt” organization’s HR department.

Among her complaints, Dugan said that in her time as CEO, she learned that Portnow gave up his title following allegations that he once raped an unnamed foreign female artist. Despite those accusations, she said she was still pressured to give him a lucrative consulting position in the organization.

Though Portnow admitted that he was accused of sexual misconduct, he said the assertions were “false and outrageous” and that he had been “completely exonerated” in an investigation, according to the Associated Press (AP).

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On her dismissal, Dugan told AP, “While I am disappointed by this latest development, I am not surprised given the academy’s pattern of dealing with whistleblowers.”

Dugan said that the academy’s investigations included no interviews with her and did not address her claims of conflict of interest and voting irregularities.

“Instead of trying to reform the corrupt institution from within,” she continued, “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 colour.”

Previously, after being advised not to take any action against Katz regarding her sexual assault allegations, Dugan called the academy “a boys’ club that coddled and favoured powerful men.”

She claimed that the attorney tried to woo her romantically and attempted to kiss her against her wishes during a dinner last year that had been presented as a business meeting.

Katz told AP that he “categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening.”

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Though Dugan offered to step down as CEO of the Grammys following the controversy, she reportedly first demanded a lump sum of US$22 million from the non-profit organization to do so. Instead, the academy placed her on administrative leave.

The academy claimed it had engaged in some settlement discussions with Dugan but instead opted to fire her and search for a new CEO, according to AP.

“We could not reward her with a lucrative settlement and thereby set a precedent that behavior like hers has no consequence,” the academy’s executive committee wrote in its letter to members. “Our members and employees, and the entire music industry, deserve better than that,” it said.

Deborah Dugan in a 2012 file photo. Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File
“The investigation overwhelmingly confirmed the serious complaints that had been lodged against [Dugan] by a multitude of academy staff members,” said Tammy Hurt, vice-chair of the academy’s National Board of Trustees, in a statement to AP.
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“The damage she has caused this organization is truly heartbreaking,” she concluded.

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Dugan’s attorneys said in a statement that the academy’s decision to fire her and immediately notify media outlets “further demonstrates that it will stop at nothing to protect and maintain a culture of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, corruption and conflicts of interest.”

In regard to the myriad of harassment claims pinned against her — and the academy’s subsequent investigations — Dugan has denied any wrongdoing.

With files from the Associated Press

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