She alleges that the review committees oversee the award categories and rig the system in favor of artists, record labels and management firms that members have business deals with. Many of those members represent or have relationships with artists and manipulate who ends up nominated, she claims.
‘Rather than promoting a transparent nomination process the Board has decided to shroud the process in secrecy, and ultimately controls, in large part, who is nominated for Grammy Awards,’ the complaint says.
Just last year Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande had top 100 hits with their hits Perfect and Thank U Next, but both missed Song of the Year nominations despite raking in enough votes.
For the plum top four awards she claims, while committees should select the final nominees from the top 20 contenders, based off ballots from its voting members.. instead the complaint alleges, committee members sometimes include artists who did not make it in the top 20 because of their personal or business relationships with those artists.
‘This year, 30 artists that were not selected by the membership were added to the possible nomination list,’ the complaint filed by Dugan reads.
She goes further to state that the board manipulates the process to ensure certain songs or albums are nominated if the show’s producer wants a specific performance to be included for the show.
‘The Board also 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,’ it adds.
The nomination system was so egregious, artists were permitted to sit on nomination committees, Dugan claims.
‘Moreover, in an outrageous conflict of interest, the Board has selected artists who are under consideration for a nomination to sit on the committee that is voting for the category for which that have been nominated. As a result, one artist who initially ranked 18 out of 20 in the 2019 ‘Song of the Year’ category ended up with a nomination. This artist was actually permitted to sit on the ‘Song of the Year’ nomination committee. Incredibly, this artist is also represented by a member of the Board,’ the complaint states.
The Recording Academy has not commented on the voting irregularity allegations.
Sexual harassment and misconduct
Nomination corruption aside, Dugan said the academy has a culture of sexual misconduct.
Dugan claimed her predecessor Neil Portnow, raped an unidentified ‘foreign’ female recording artist and the company knew about it.
She said she learned of the allegation against Portnow in a May 2019 board meeting. She said the Board presented the information to her as if they just learned of it, but ‘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 states.
Adding a personal dimension to the charges of sexism, Dugan also claimed she was sexually harassed after taking up the job by Joel Katz, the company’s top entertainment lawyer.
In the complaint, Dugan alleged that in May 2019, when she had accepted the CEO position but had not begun her work, she had dinner with Katz, the academy’s general counsel, alone at his request in Laguna Niguel, California, on the eve of a meeting of the academy board.
Deborah Dugan alleges in her complaint that Joel Katz, [photo], the Academy’s top entertainment lawyer sexually harassed her just as she was about to assume her post as Grammys CEO. She reported the sexual harassment in an email to HR in Dec
There, Katz acted ‘extremely inappropriately,’ according to the complaint, calling Dugan ‘baby’ and making ‘an obvious and unwelcome attempt to “woo” Ms. Dugan into a romantic relationship.’
Dugan, the complaint said, made it clear she wasn’t interested and was in a relationship, but he still attempted to kiss her at the end of the night. She ‘quickly turned away, repulsed.’ Katz continued the harassment in subsequent interactions, the complaint alleged.
She reported the sexual harassment in an email to human resources on December 22, 2019.
Katz ‘categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening,’ his attorney, Howard Weitzman, said in a statement. The statement said the dinner occurred two and a half months before Dugan started as CEO.
‘Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the board of trustees of the academy, and others, were dining,’ Weitzman’s statement read.
Dugan also contends Katz and his firm were paid inappropriately by the academy, and that his role representing both the academy and artists who are up for Grammys was a conflict of interest.
In the complaint Dugan claimed she was paid less than former academy CEO Neil Portnow, who left the post last year, and that she was also subject to retaliation for refusing to hire Portnow as a consultant for nearly half his former salary.
Portnow had been criticized for saying women need to ‘step up’ when asked backstage at the 2018 show why only two female acts won awards during the live telecast last year. Portnow called his comments a ‘poor choice of words’ and later said he chose not to seek an extension on his contract.
A filing with the Internal Revenue Service shows that Portnow was paid $1.74 million in 2016.
Dugan said she was pressured to hire him as a consultant for $750,000 annually. Dugan’s Grammys compensation was not revealed in Tuesday’s filing. She earned nearly $537,000 in 2016 in her previous job as CEO of Bono’s (RED) charity organization.
The 2020 Grammys will be held on Sunday January 26 in Los Angeles.
The Academy hits back
Accusations have been flying back and forth between the academy and Dugan.
Despite her stark allegations, the Recording Academy says that Dugan herself created a ‘toxic and intolerable’ working environment and was ‘abusive and bullying’ to an assistant.
Ousted Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan claims the Recording Academy is a ‘boys club’ that rigs nominations for the Grammy Awards, choosing artists Board members have business or personal relationships with
Billboard reports a contradicting statement by the Academy, alleging that former CEO Dugan had offered to resign and drop her own accusations against the organization in exchange for a $22 million payout.
A statement from the Academy last Thursday stated, “In light of concerns raised to the Recording Academy board of trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team, the Board has placed Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan on administrative leave, effective immediately.”
Similar accusations were repeated on Monday by the Academy board chairman and interim President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr in a memo sent to Grammy members, in which Mason also claims that Dugan made her allegations only after the Academy began its investigation of her.
‘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.” When Ms. Dugan did raise her “concerns” to HR, she specifically instructed HR “not to take any action” in response’.
In their statement, a recording academy spokesperson said: “We immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan’s potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations…. Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave only after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy..,” the statement added.
The female employee who reportedly filed the ‘toxic environment’ report against Dugan is believed to be Portnow’s executive assistant Claudine Little.
After Portnow’s scandal last year the Academy announced it would create a task force to examine ‘conscious and unconscious bias’ within the music industry and the academy itself, led by Tina Tchen, one time chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama.
At the end of it’s findings the panel issued 18 recommended changes.
Among the key findings in the final report released in December, the panel pointed out that there was a lack of diversity in the Academy’s offices and voting members, and Board of Trustees.