After Declaring ‘The Recording Academy Has Absolutely Nothing to Hide,” Recording Academy CEO Blocks Access to ex-CEO Arbitration Hearing

The Recording Academy

Photo Credit: The Recording Academy / CC by 4.0

The Recording Academy is prepping for its arbitration hearing with ex-CEO Deborah Dugan next month.

Lawyers for Ms. Dugan said the organization responsible for the Grammy Awards has not kept its promise for an open arbitration hearing. The hearing is over the dismissal of Ms. Dugan after just five months as the Recording Academy’s CEO. The hearing is being viewed with interest as a potential window into the politics of the organization.

Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave by The Recording Academy just 10 days before the 62nd Grammy Awards in January 2020. Ms. Dugan was later fired, and the dispute played out in the public eye. In a letter dated February 4, Harvey Mason Jr. told Ms. Dugan that the Academy would agree to waive its confidentiality provision in her employment contract.

“The Recording Academy has absolutely nothing to hide,” Mr. Mason wrote, “and, in fact, welcomes the opportunity to tell its story so that the entire music community and the world can hear the truth – and nothing but the truth – about what you did to this proud institution during your brief tenure as president and CEO.”

“In short, we welcome a full public airing of your allegations against the Academy as well as the Academy’s many claims and defenses against you.” But those bold claims seem to have gone away as the hearing date of July 12 approaches.

The Recording Academy has requested that the arbitration proceedings remain closed to the public.

The Academy’s lawyers argue that the organization was and is willing to make public the results of this arbitration and the reasoning for those results, and nothing more.” Anthony J. Oncidi of Proskauer Rose argues that Mr. Mason’s letter only covered the disclosure or result of any arbitration. He also argues that a full public hearing would expose other confidential information and cause “further emotional distress” to witnesses.

The Recording Academy argues that Ms. Dugan was dismissed for alienating staff and bullying them. But Ms. Dugan lodged a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about being fired. She was brought on as CEO of The Recording Academy to afford change to an already beleaguered Grammys Awards. She alleges her dismissal was an act of retaliation for shaking up what she calls the “boys’ club” that dominates The Recording Academy.

Her firing also came three weeks after she wrote a detailed letter to the Academy’s HR department. In the letter, she details voting irregularities, financial mismanagement, and conflicts of interest between the Academy’s members of the board and its executive committee.