Gram­mys CEO was ousted af­ter ha­rass­ment com­plaint

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS - By AN­DREW DALTON

LOS AN­GE­LES — The ousted Gram­mys CEO fired back at the Record­ing Academy on Tues­day, al­leg­ing that she was re­moved af­ter com­plain­ing about sex­ual ha­rass­ment and pay dis­par­i­ties and for call­ing out con­flicts of in­ter­est in the nom­i­na­tion process for mu­sic’s most pres­ti­gious awards.

Lawyers for Deb­o­rah Du­gan, who was placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave last week af­ter six months in the job, filed the dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaint with the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion just five days be­fore the Grammy Awards. She al­leged she was sex­u­ally ha­rassed by the academy’s gen­eral coun­sel, Joel Katz.

Du­gan de­tailed the ha­rass­ment and other is­sues in an email to an academy hu­man re­sources ex­ec­u­tive on Dec. 22 ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

The com­plaint also states that Du­gan 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 he was asked back­stage at the 2018 show why only two fe­male acts won awards dur­ing the live tele­cast. 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 com­pen­sa­tion was not re­vealed in Tues­day’s fil­ing.

Last week, the academy said Du­gan was put on leave fol­low­ing an al­le­ga­tion of mis­con­duct by a se­nior leader at the or­ga­ni­za­tion. In the com­plaint, Du­gan’s at­tor­neys called that ac­cu­sa­tion false, say­ing there was no mis­treat­ment and the se­nior leader was the ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant she in­her­ited from Port­now.

In her Dec. 22 email, Du­gan called the academy “a boys’ club.”

While try­ing to re­solve a law­suit against the academy, Du­gan said one of the claimants char­ac­ter­ized the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lead­er­ship as “a boys’ club” that “put their fi­nan­cial in­ter­est above the mis­sion.”

“At the time, I didn’t want to be­lieve it,” said Du­gan, the for­mer CEO of Bono’s (RED) char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion. “But now af­ter five months of be­ing ex­posed to the be­hav­ior and cir­cum­stances out­lined here, I have come to sus­pect she is right.”

The academy said in a state­ment that it “im­me­di­ately launched in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions to re­view both Ms. Du­gan’s po­ten­tial mis­con­duct and her sub­se­quent al­le­ga­tions.” Both of those in­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing.

Du­gan, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, was placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave af­ter of­fer­ing to step down and de­mand­ing $22 mil­lion from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Our loy­alty will al­ways be to the 21,000 mem­bers of the Record­ing Academy. We re­gret that mu­sic’s big­gest night is be­ing stolen from them by Ms. Du­gan’s ac­tions, and we are work­ing to re­solve the mat­ter as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

An email from Katz said the at­tor­ney was out sick. Katz’s firm said it had not yet seen the com­plaint and could not com­ment on its al­le­ga­tions.

In the com­plaint, Du­gan al­leges 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.

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.”

The com­plaint states Du­gan 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. Du­gan “quickly turned away, re­pulsed.” Katz con­tin­ued the ha­rass­ment in sub­se­quent in­ter­ac­tions, the com­plaint al­leges.

It 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.

The com­plaint is also crit­i­cal of the Gram­mys vot­ing process, specif­i­cally its use of nom­i­na­tion com­mit­tees to se­lect the fi­nal list of nom­i­nees, which can range from five to eight depend­ing on the cat­e­gory.

“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 read.

For the top four awards, com­mit­tees se­lect the fi­nal nom­i­nees from the top 20 con­tenders, based off bal­lots from its vot­ing mem­bers. But the com­plaint said the 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 read.

The com­plaint also claimed that one of the song-of-the-year nom­i­nees — who placed 18th in the top 20 — sat on the com­mit­tee de­cid­ing the song-of-the-year nom­i­nees and is rep­re­sented by a mem­ber of the academy Board.


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