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Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan Fired After Accusations of Bullying Employee and Exposing Grammy Voting

Gettyimages | Bryan Bedder
By Yuriy Andriyashchuk

The Recording Academy's CEO, Deborah Dugan, has been suspended since mid-January after complaints by an employee of being mistreated. She also blasted the Grammy's award nomination process and accused one of the top music attorneys out, Joel Katz, of sexual harassment against her. She also labeled the Academy as a "boys club" who protected very powerful men in the organization. On Monday, this all led to her officially being removed from her role in a letter, per CBS. The Academy reached this decision after "two exhaustive, costly independent investigations."

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The Academy added that regarding Dugan's claims, there were "consistent management deficiencies and failures." Dugan's original complaint was for discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Dugan spoke out about the firing and is not surprised due to the Academy's "treatment of whistleblowers" but will continue to fight racism, sexism, and the Grammy's voting process.

"While I am disappointed by this latest development, I am not surprised given the Academy's pattern of dealing with whistle blowers," said Dugan in a statement. "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."

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The Academy pondered on the idea of reaching a settlement with Dugan but felt that it was best to fire her.

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

Dugan's legal team maintained their stance that this firing and notifying the media "further demonstrates that it will stop at nothing to protect and maintain a culture of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, corruption and conflicts of interest."

Gettyimages | John Lamparski

Regarding the accusations against Katz, Dugan claimed that he tried to "woo her" and attempted to kiss her at a dinner in 2019. This dinner was supposed to be strictly about business. Katz has since said he "categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening." Dugan is also defending herself by denying being abusive to Director of Administration, Claudine Little.

"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 in a statement. "The damage she has caused this organization is truly heartbreaking."

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The Academy's previous CEO, Neil Portnow, was accused of raping a "foreign" singer who used to be a member of the Academy at the time. He has repeatedly denied this accusation along with reportedly demanding a $750,000 consulting job with the Academy.

“This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me,” he wrote. “Here is what is true:"

“The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue. The suggestion that there was is disseminating a lie. The baseless complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the Board of Director’s Executive Committee. An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally.”

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