On Monday, the controlling organization of the Grammys (the Executive Committee of the Recording Academy) sent a letter to its members telling them that President/CEO Deborah Dugan had been fired.
This development was not a total shock as, prior to this, Dugan was put on administrative leave following allegations of “misconduct.” That happened on January 16, just 10 days before the 2020 version of the annual awards show was set to air.
Dugan had begun her tenure on August 1. Which is to say it was a short-lived one.
According to Rolling Stone, Dugan had attempted to combat her ousting by levelling her own accusations towards the Academy, which included complaints that they needlessly funneled money to law firms, and also that they paid a massive consultancy fee to her predecessor, Neil Portnow, after Portnow was canned from the same post last year. Dugan further accused music attorney Joel Katz of sexual harassment (which he denied), and said that the voting process for the show was “rigged.”
The Board of Trustees voted for her termination, and justified it by saying it came about after a pair of “exhaustive, costly investigations relation to Ms. Dugan and the allegations made against her and by her.” They further claim those investigations were conducted by people who had no relationship with their organization, and that they weren’t given instructions as to what conclusion to come to.
The letter also contains notes from the academy that a settlement had been discussed at the request of Dugan, but that her dismissal by the Academy was “ultimately compelled.” It’s not clear if any sort of settlement is still being discussed.
“We could not reward her with a lucrative settlement and thereby set a precedent that behavior like hers has no consequence,” they said.
In order to buttress their argument that a firing was warranted, the Academy also cited “consistent management deficiencies and failures, and other factors,” as reasons behind the move.
The letter said that “this is not what [they] wanted or expected when [they] hired Ms. Dugan last year… Though she made some valuable contributions, Ms. Dugan failed to perform her job duties as promised and expected.”
In defense of herself, Dugan released a statement to Rolling Stone in which she said the Academy failed to refute her claims. In that statement she said:
“I was recruited and hired by the Recording Academy to make positive change; unfortunately, I was not able to do that as its CEO. While I am disappointed by this latest development, I am not surprised given the Academy’s pattern of dealing with whistleblowers. Is anyone surprised that its purported investigations did not include interviewing me or addressing the greater claims of conflicts of interest and voting irregularities? 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. Artists deserve better. To me, this is the real meaning of ‘stepping up.’”
Dugans attorneys also added to that in a statement in which they castigated the Academy for immediately leaking news of the decision to the media. They also threatened legal action.
“The Academy’s decision to terminate Ms. Dugan and immediately leak that information to the press further demonstrates that it will stop at nothing to protect and maintain a culture of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, corruption and conflicts of interest,” they said. “The decision is despicable and, in due course, the Academy, its leadership and its attorneys will be held accountable under the law.”
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