The very public conflict between the Recording Academy and Deborah Dugan has taken yet another dramatic turn, as Recording Academy board members have officially fired Dugan as CEO.
Dugan’s firing was revealed in a letter distributed to Recording Academy members. The document indicated that her long-expected dismissal—she was ousted from the Academy in January—was finalized by a vote taken from the Board of Trustees.
These individuals, it was said, cast their ballots after considering the results of “two exhaustive, costly independent investigations.” Dugan was put on leave over an unspecific transgression just ten days before the Grammys aired in February; the move was widely panned as politically motivated and unnecessarily damaging to the awards showcase.
The first investigation explored an allegation of misconduct made against Dugan (by Claudine Little, an executive assistant); the second investigation presumably concerned the many allegations made by Dugan. The former (RED) CEO claimed that the Grammy voting process is corrupt; she also claimed that Recording Academy lawyer Joel Katz sexually harassed her. She even accused former Recording Academy head Neil Portnow of committing rape and effectively covering it up.
The letter also stated that the investigations had been performed “by experienced individuals with no prior relationship to the Academy.” Thirty-seven witnesses were said to have been interviewed, and many emails and official documents were voluntarily provided by the Academy.
Dugan’s lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin, released a statement calling the leaked letter and their client’s dismissal “despicable.” The statement went on to say that the Recording Academy will “stop at nothing to protect and maintain a culture of misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, corruption and conflicts of interest.”
In the leaked email, Recording Academy Interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. reiterated that Dugan had been let go while noting that the search for a new CEO will begin presently.
Lastly, Mason Jr. said the details of Dugan’s hiring process will be examined so the Recording Academy can “make any necessary changes going forward”—i.e., avoid a similar catastrophe with the next hire.
Previously, the Academy circulated (and leaked) other internal letters disputing Dugan’s claims. Notably, the most damning of these allegations—that Neil Portnow committed rape and the Recording Academy engaged in a coverup—has not been substantiated by evidence. To be sure, no police report was filed against Portnow, a previous internal investigation found him innocent, and the woman in question has not stepped forward (if she even exists).
Late last month, sources said that Dugan and the Academy had entered mediation (Dugan also filed a lawsuit against the organization) and that a settlement was imminent. To date, no such deal has been announced, and it’s possible that this newest dispute will further delay an agreement.