Recording Academy Interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. Releases Statement

Harvey Mason Jr.

Interim Recording Academy President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. released a letter to Recording Academy members on Monday (Jan. 20) offering details regarding Deborah Dugan’s recent placement on administrative leave, which was announced just 10 days before the upcoming Grammy Awards on Jan. 26 at the Los Angeles Staples Center.

In the memo, Mason, a music producer who has worked with Jennifer Hudson, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Chris Brown and more, states that in November 2019, the Recording Academy’s Executive Committee “became aware of abusive work environment complaints alleged against Ms. Dugan.” The memo further states that in December 2019, “a letter was sent from an attorney representing a staff member that included additional detailed and serious allegations of a ‘toxic and intolerable’ and ‘abusive and bullying’ environment created by Ms. Dugan.”

The memo goes on to say, “After we received the employee complaints against Ms. Dugan, she then (for the first time) made allegations against the Academy. In response, we started a separate investigation into Ms. Dugan’s allegations. Ms. Dugan’s attorney then informed the Executive Committee that if Ms. Dugan was paid millions of dollars, she would “withdraw” her allegations and resign from her role as CEO. Following that communication from Ms. Dugan’s attorney, Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave as we complete both of these ongoing investigations.”

The memo is one of the latest in the saga, following the statement released on Friday from Dugan’s attorney Bryan Freedman to the Associated Press, which stated, “What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told. When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy, a public nonprofit.”

Read Mason’s statement in full below:

As a proud member of our music community and the Recording Academy’s interim President and CEO, I thought it important that I reach out to you all directly about Deborah Dugan. In her brief time with the Academy, Ms. Dugan and I were in sync about taking a fresh look at everything and making any and all changes necessary to improve the Academy as well as making it more current and relevant to the creative community we serve. I remain committed to that goal.

In November of 2019, the Executive Committee became aware of abusive work environment complaints alleged against Ms. Dugan and in December 2019, a letter was sent from an attorney representing a staff member that included additional detailed and serious allegations of a “toxic and intolerable” and “abusive and bullying” environment created by Ms. Dugan towards the staff. Given these concerning reports, the Executive Committee launched an immediate and independent investigation into the alleged misconduct of Ms. Dugan.

After we received the employee complaints against Ms. Dugan, she then (for the first time) made allegations against the Academy. In response, we started a separate investigation into Ms. Dugan’s allegations. Ms. Dugan’s attorney then informed the Executive Committee that if Ms. Dugan was paid millions of dollars, she would “withdraw” her allegations and resign from her role as CEO. Following that communication from Ms. Dugan’s attorney, Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave as we complete both of these ongoing investigations.

I’m deeply disturbed and saddened by the “leaks” and misinformation, which are fueling a press campaign designed to create leverage against the Academy for personal gain. As GRAMMY week is upon us, I truly hope we can focus our attention on the artists who’ve received nominations and deserve to be celebrated at this time of the year, and not give credence to unsubstantiated attacks on the Academy. To do otherwise is just not right.

As you know the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees is composed of creative and technical artists and music makers from all genres, who’ve devoted their lives to making music and volunteering their time dedicated to the mission of the Recording Academy. These Trustees as well as the Governors in our 12 chapters give their time freely and passionately. Many are entrepreneurs who run small businesses devoted to their art, and generously donate their time not only to recognize their peers, but to fight for the rights of music makers, foster music education, and provide support to those in need all year long. Furthermore our hardworking and knowledgeable staff could not be more dedicated to supporting and furthering our mission. The current attacks on the Academy are attacks on these people, which are unwarranted, uninformed and unconscionable.

I encourage anyone who is truly interested to go beyond the sensational sound bites and teaser headlines and look at what the Academy actually does and how it functions. Don’t buy into headlines generated for personal gain but seek the truth as I am doing. As I mentioned we have initiated two independent investigations to explore all claims and present objective findings. My pledge to you is that I will address the findings of these investigations fairly and honestly and work to make needed repairs and changes while ensuring we have an Academy that honors diversity, inclusion and a safe work environment for all concerned.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and your support of our Recording Academy.

Harvey Mason, Jr.

Dugan took the helm of the Recording Academy on Aug. 1, following an outcry that erupted in 2018 when then-CEO/President of the Academy Neil Portnow made comments backstage at that year’s Grammy Awards. After male artists dominated the 2018 Grammy Awards, Portnow suggested that women “step up” if they wanted to receive equal recognition. Members of the larger music community were outraged, and Portnow later announced he would not extend his contract, which ended in July 2019.

In December 2019, the Recording Academy Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, led by Tina Tchen, released a detailed report, offering several strategies and action points to bring about greater equality on many fronts to the Recording Academy’s membership, leadership, and selection committees.

 

 

 

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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