Just ten days before the Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy put its first-ever female president and CEO, Deborah Dugan, on leave, citing unspecified accusations of wrongdoing when she had only been at the job for five months. But Dugan says she won’t be put in the corner.
Dugan said through her lawyer Friday, “What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “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.”
“Step up” is a reference to a comment made by her predecessor, Neil Portnow, in 2018 that female recording artists needed to “step up” if they wanted to win more Grammys and achieve greater success in the industry overall.
In her first interview after taking the job, Dugan said, “All the issues that Neil has addressed have led us to a larger conversation, and that is a conversation, of course, that we need to have about women and diversity in music. Where we take it and how we use this organization to effect positive change, that’s one of the questions I’m most excited to answer in this job.”
But sources say her way of doing things and her commitment to shaking up the status quo rubbed some people the wrong way, including an assistant to Portnow who filed a complaint against Dugan, saying she had a “bullying” management technique.
Dugan, however, had recently filed a complaint of her own with the academy’s HR department in which she said the academy was rife with voting irregularities, financial mismanagement, “exorbitant and unnecessary” legal fees, as well as, “conflicts of interest involving members of the academy’s board, executive committee and outside lawyers.”
According to Variety’s sources, Dugan is possibly being railroaded by academy old-timers.
“[W]hat may have taken place was a ‘coup’: a move by entrenched Academy veterans to discredit and remove Dugan, who came in promising significant changes to the organization, before she could establish herself with a successful first show,” that publication writes.
In a statement regarding Dugan’s forced leave, the Academy said it has assigned an independent, third-party investigation.
“The Board determined this action to be necessary in order to restore the confidence of the Recording Academy’s membership, repair Recording Academy employee morale, and allow the Recording Academy to focus on its mission of serving all music creators,” the statement read in part.
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