Former Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan filed a charge of discrimination complaint yesterday (Jan. 21) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission detailing sexual harassment; as well as “egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members and voting irregularities with respect to nominations to the Grammy Awards, all made possible by the ‘boy’s club’ mentality and approach to governance at the Academy.”
MusicRow has obtained a copy of the EEOC complaint from the Wigdor, LLP. Click here to view it in its entirety.
The complaint states that Dugan sent an email to Shonda Grant, Managing Director, People and Culture (Human Resources) on Dec. 22, 2019, describing “sexual harassment to which she was subjected by Joel Katz, Esq.,” an entertainment attorney and tenured executive at the Academy.
The complaint also states that Dugan’s predecessor—former CEO Neil Portnow, who stepped down in July of 2019—“allegedly raped a female recording artist.” The alleged artist is not named in the complaint, but described as “foreign.” The complaint claims that the board was aware of the incident, and that is why Portnow’s contract was not renewed.
It claims that she was asked to offer Portnow a $750,000 consulting contract, that “Katz and his law firm are paid an exorbitant amount of money by the Academy,” and that Dugan’s assistant, Claudine Little, was sharing information from Dugan’s emails with Academy board members and executives.
Dugan’s complaint alleges that some board members on “secret committees” that select the Grammy nominees represent or have relationships with nominated artists, that the “Board uses these committees as an opportunity to push forward artists with whom they have relationships,” that “the Board 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 during the show,” and that “the Board is permitted to simply add in artists for nominations who did not even make the initial 20-artist list.”
Dugan goes on to allege that this year, “30 artists that were not selected by the membership were added to the possible nominations list.”
“That 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 — over Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande,” she states in the complaint.
Dugan’s attorneys Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin at Wigdor Law, said in a statement: “The complaint that we filed today against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammys) highlights tactics reminiscent of those deployed by individuals defending Harvey Weinstein. As we allege, the attempt by the Recording Academy to impugn the character of Deborah Dugan is a transparent effort to shift the focus away from its own unlawful activity. This blatant form of retaliation in corporate America is all too common, even post #MeToo, and we will utilize all lawful means necessary to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”
In response to the statement that the Academy’s interim CEO and President, Harvey Mason Jr. published on Tuesday (Jan. 21), Wigdor and Willemin released the following statement:
“As the charge filed today clearly alleges, the assertion that Ms. Dugan did not raise concerns prior to the accusations manufactured against her is completely false. Ms. Dugan repeatedly raised concerns throughout her entire tenure at the Academy, and even gave large presentations focused on diversity and inclusion at Board meetings. In addition, it is not just Ms. Dugan who has raised concerns. As alleged in the charge, artists, other board members and employees have all raised virtually all of the concerns raised by Ms. Dugan. As alleged, the Academy has lost its way and abandoned the recording industry, instead focusing on self-dealing and turning blind eye to the “boys’ club” environment, obvious improprieties and conflicts of interest.
It was never Ms. Dugan’s intention to turn this into a public fight precisely because of her love for music and the members of the recording industry. Unfortunately, staying silent was made impossible by the Board’s repeated leaks and disclosures of false and misleading information to the press.
Finally, as alleged in the charge, on the morning of the day she was put on leave, the Academy offered Ms. Dugan millions of dollars to drop all of this and leave the Academy. The Board Chair demanded an answer within the hour. When Ms. Dugan refused to accept and walk away, she was put on leave. The Academy claimed that Ms. Dugan was put on leave based on accusations made against her over a month prior that the Board knows very well are meritless. That is not a credible story.”
In response to Dugan’s complaint, Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Katz, said: “Ms. Dugan’s allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false and Mr. Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening. This dinner meeting was 2½ months before Ms. Dugan started her job. 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. Ms. Dugan’s claims are made, for the first time, 7 months after this dinner took place. Mr. Katz will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth. Hopefully Ms. Dugan will do the same.”
In a statement obtained by various media publications including Billboard, Portnow denies all allegations stating the EEOC filing “is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me.”
His complete statement is below.
“This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me. 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.
I fulfilled the terms and responsibilities of my contract during my 17 years as President and ultimately Chief Executive Officer. Consistent with my pledge to ensure that there would be the appropriate amount of time for the Academy to organize and execute an efficient and transparent transition, I determined far in advance of the Grammy telecast in 2018 that I would not seek a further extension of my contract scheduled to end July 31, 2019. I informed the then Board Chair and Executive Committee of my decision. At no time did I ever demand a $750,000 consulting fee.
After making the ‘step up’ comment during the 2018 telecast, for which I have apologized and deeply regret the offense caused, and understanding the power of listening and lessons learned, I took action. I proposed, and the Academy created an independent Task Force to review the state of diversity & inclusion across the organization. After presenting the Task Force plan and proposed study of the organization to the board, the group was created to implement change. Task Force Chair Tina Tchen made a presentation to the full Board during a May 2019 meeting.
The repetition of these falsehoods against me, and others referenced within the EEOC filing are a diversionary tactic and will not convert them to truth. I will vigorously defend all false claims made against me in this document.
I would like to wish all the 2020 nominees and those in our creative community well and sincerely hope that they will celebrate their art and accomplishments this weekend at the Grammy Awards telecast and during the many Grammy Week events ahead.”
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