Last week, just 10 days before the Grammy Awards, Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan was mysteriously removed from the organization, with a New York Times story citing claims of “misconduct” by a “senior female member of the Recording Academy team” and what was apparently a “bullying management style.” Meanwhile, a Jezebel story says there were also reports that the Recording Academy board simply didn’t like Dugan and took issue with her concerns about some potential “voting irregularities” and “conflicts of interests” that they had. Now, Dugan has filed a lawsuit against the Recording Academy, accusing it of covering up sexual harassment allegations and retaliating against her when she told HR that she was sexually harassed by former board member (and Recording Academy legal counsel) Joel Katz.
This comes from Pitchfork, which says that Dugan also revealed in the suit that she was informed that her predecessor—Neil Portnow—was accused of rape by “a recording artist and member of the Recording Academy.” Portnow’s name should be familiar to people who follow this stuff, as he was the former Recording Academy president who responded to the low number of female Grammy winners by saying that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to win more awards. After a sizable backlash against the entire Grammys organization, Portnow stepped down a few months later—or, to be more accurate, the Recording Academy announced that he would be stepping down when his contract expired in 2019, meaning it didn’t necessarily have anything to do with his comments about female artists. According to Dugan’s lawsuit, Portnow’s removal may have actually been about this alleged rape.
In a statement from Dugan’s lawyers, the actions of the Recording Academy are compared to what Harvey Weinstein has been accused of, saying the organization worked to “impugn the character of Deborah Dugan” as a “transparent effort to shift the focus away from its own unlawful activity.” Dugan’s suit also points out the Recording Academy’s poor history of addressing diversity issues and its “boys’ club” mentality.