Deborah Dugan, the Recording Academy president and CEO who took over for Neil Portnow back in 2019, has been fired, Variety reports. Dugan was placed on administrative leave on January 17 for unspecified “misconduct,” igniting a heated controversy within the music industry mere days before the 2020 Grammys on January 26.
The Academy confirmed the news in a letter to members. “Dear Members,” it reads. “As you know, Deborah Dugan has been on a paid administrative leave of absence since January 16, 2020. We are writing to let you know that, earlier today, the Board of Trustees voted to terminate Ms. Dugan’s employment as President/CEO of the Recording Academy.” It goes on as follows:
This decision of the Board, with full support of the Executive Committee, was based on: Two exhaustive, costly independent investigations relating to Ms. Dugan and the allegations made against her and by her. These investigations were carried out by experienced individuals with no prior relationship to the Academy, interviewed a combined total of 37 witnesses, and reviewed numerous relevant documents and emails. The investigators were not given any directives about what specifically to investigate or what conclusions, if any, they were expected to reach, and they were not limited by the Academy in terms of what witnesses they could interview or files or documents they could review. Each investigator had free rein to fully investigate all of the allegations that were made against Ms. Dugan and by Ms. Dugan against the Recording Academy. The unwarranted and damaging media campaign that she launched in an attempt, without justification, to derail the GRAMMY Awards show, including her false allegations that the system was — in her words — “rigged” and that the Academy was “corrupt.”
When contacted by Pitchfork, Dugan’s attorney offered the following response:
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. The decision is despicable and, in due course, the Academy, it’s leadership and its attorneys will be held accountable under the law.
Dugan’s attorney later responded with the following statement from Ms. Dugan:
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.”
Pitchfork has reached out to the Recording Academy’s representatives for comment and more information.
On January 22, Dugan filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that levied several serious allegations against the Recording Academy and former CEO Neil Portnow. In her complaint, Dugan said that she had been sexually harassed by Joel Katz, an attorney for the Recording Academy. She also alleged that Portnow had been accused of raping an artist after she performed at Carnegie Hall. Portnow responded in a statement to Variety on the same day Dugan filed her complaint, calling her claims “ludicrous.”
Dugan and her attorney Douglas Wigdor discussed the situation on Good Morning America and CBS This Morning on January 23. Dugan replaced Portnow in August 2019, following Portnow’s resignation over comments made in 2018 that female musicians need to “step up.”
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork