MusiCares Launches an Official Investigation Into Harassment and Financial Impropriety

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, who oversees Muscares. Portnow is voluntarily stepping down.

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow, who oversees MusiCares. Portnow is voluntarily stepping down.

MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s non-profit wing, has hired law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP to look into a fired employee’s claims of harassment.

In a letter to MusiCares members, MusiCares chairman Michael McDonald wrote, “With any charity, trust is earned and can never be taken for granted. Needless to say, we welcome their findings and will act on their recommendations.”

Last month, a former employee, VP Dana Tomarken, accused Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow of steering money away from MusiCares in order to fund a deficit created by this year’s Grammy telecast in New York City. She also alleged that Portnow was behind a deal to hold the MusiCares Person of the Year event at Radio City Music Hall instead of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.  The move allegedly resulted in a $4 million drop in fundraising, from $5 million in 2017 down to $1 million this year.

Tomarken claimed to be a victim of workplace harassment from two male coworkers.  She was ultimately fired on April 16th of this year, after 25 years at the Academy.  At issue was a $2,500 bill for a MusiCares auction item that she was late in paying.

Portnow responded to Tomarken, saying, “As Ms. Tomarken well knows, neither MusiCares nor the Recording Academy ever intended to reduce, nor will they reduce, the amount of financial support made available to MusiCares clients in need.”

A few days, later, Portnow confirmed rumors that he would not be seeking another term as head of the Academy.

McDonald told board members that MusiCares is taking Tomarken’s allegations “very seriously.”

“As you know, MusiCares provides a range of critical support for music people in need,” wrote McDonald. “With each passing year, our goal is to do more, to give more, and to serve a greater number of people. Our mission remains singular: to help music people in need.”

McDonald stated that, although he could only share so much on the topic “due to legal and privacy issues,” Tomarken’s firing came after “a full investigation.”

“While we work to investigate and address these allegations, please rest assured that MusiCares will continue to provide the best level of service possible to support our community – that will not change,” concluded McDonald.



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