On Thursday night, word spread among a shocked music biz: Deborah Dugan, the Recording Academy CEO who had been in her new position only since last August, had been removed from her post just 10 days before “Music’s Biggest Night.”
Dugan was placed on administrative leave “in light of concerns raised to the Recording Academy board of trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team,” a rep for the academy said in a statement Thursday.
In an internal memo from temporary replacement Harvey Mason Jr., obtained by Rolling Stone, the interim CEO assured academy members Thursday night that “all Recording Academy operations will proceed as normal during the interim leadership transition. The Grammy Awards and all related activities will go forward as planned.” Mason, who had worked directly alongside Dugan as a united front since her CEO announcement, was originally brought in as board chairman.
“The board of trustees felt this action to be necessary in light of serious concerns that recently came to their attention,” Mason said in his memo. “While we are unable to share the details of the concerns to protect employee privacy, please know that the board has also retained two independent third-party investigators to conduct independent investigations of the allegations that caused the concerns. We want to assure you that the Recording Academy board of trustees is committed to fostering a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace, music industry, and society.”
In a report by The New York Times, “a person with direct knowledge of the events,” stated that “Ms. Dugan had been removed after a complaint was filed by the assistant to her predecessor, Neil Portnow, who had also worked temporarily for Ms. Dugan. The assistant accused Ms. Dugan of a bullying management style, the person said, which contributed to the assistant taking a leave of absence.” A rep for the academy did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Dugan’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, said in a statement that more information will be “exposed” at a later date. “What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told,” Freedman said. “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.”
Dugan came aboard as the successor to Portnow, who was removed for making unfortunate remarks about women needing to “step up” last May. At the time, Dugan, the former head of the (RED) charity, declared, “The goal of the Recording Academy is to support, encourage, and advocate for those within the music community. I will listen to and champion all of those individuals, and lead this iconic organization into the future.”
Interim Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr.’s Memo to Members
Dear Recording Academy Member,
We wanted to share that the Recording Academy Board of Trustees has placed Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan on Administrative Leave, effective immediately.
The Board of Trustees felt this action to be necessary in light of serious concerns that recently came to their attention. While we are unable to share the details of the concerns to protect employee privacy, please know that the Board has also retained two independent third-party investigators to conduct independent investigations of the allegations that caused the concerns.
We want to assure you that the Recording Academy Board of Trustees is committed to fostering a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace, music industry, and society. The Board has appointed me to serve as Interim President and CEO, and all Recording Academy operations will proceed as normal during the interim leadership transition.
The GRAMMY Awards and all related activities will go forward as planned. Recording Academy Chief Industry, Government Affairs, & Member Relations Officer Daryl Friedman and VP of Membership & Industry Relations Laura Segura Mueller will share additional information with you as it becomes available and when appropriate. In the interim, our focus on service to the music community – and to you, our members – will remain uninterrupted and undiminished.
Harvey Mason, Jr. Interim Recording Academy President and CEO