Ousted Grammys CEO says there are 'conflicts of interest' that taint nominations
Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave last week over claims including “a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team,” spoke out Thursday for the first time since filing her own complaint against the Recording Academy.
Appearing on Good Morning America with her attorney Douglas Wigdor to discuss the scandal with anchor George Stephanopoulos, Dugan went into detail about her allegation of sexual harassment by the Academy’s general counsel Joel Katz — who has denied the claim — as well as “evidence” she has that the system of nominating musicians for Grammy Awards is rigged.
“I’m saying that the system should be transparent and that there are incidents of conflicts of interest that taint the results,” she said. “I couldn’t say more positive things about all of the nominations and everybody that performs. I hate that I’m in this situation because I’d much rather be here talking about the artists and the music, but I can’t help but have to say there are conflicts of interest that go on.”
In her formal complaint, examples included Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande, whom she alleges did not get nominations for Song of the Year due to favoritism and conflicts of interest. “Moreover, in an outrageous conflict of interest, the Board has selected artists who are under consideration for a nomination to sit on the committee that is voting for the category for which they have been nominated. As a result, one artist who initially ranked 18 out of 20 in the 2019 ‘Song of the Year’ category ended up with a nomination,” the complaint reads. “This artist was actually permitted to sit on the ‘Song of the Year’ nomination committee. Incredibly, this artist is also represented by a member of the Board.”
Dugan and Wigdor did not name that artist when asked on Good Morning America for the sake of that person’s privacy “and for the integrity of all those artists that are going to perform and get nominations this year.” However, she added “it’s not even just that one room. I have evidence that in another room — because there were complaints made in the jazz category.”
In its own previous statement in response to Dugan’s complaint, the Recording Academy stated it launched “independent investigations” but questioned Dugan’s motives for coming forward. “It is curious that Ms. Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee who alleged Ms. Dugan had created a ‘toxic and intolerable’ work environment and engaged in ‘abusive and bullying conduct,'” the statement read. “When Ms. Dugan did raise her ‘concerns’ to HR, she specifically instructed HR ‘not to take any action’ in response.”
Dugan’s official complaint also states that the female employee behind that accusation is Claudine Little, a former executive assistant to former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow, who himself was accused of raping a female recording artist. Little called Dugan’s allegations “emblematic of Ms. Dugan’s abusive and bullying conduct while she served as the Academy’s President and CEO.”
Regarding the Academy’s statement, Dugan said “all along I had been bringing up what was happening” and that her ousting came “weeks” after she filed her complaint. Regarding Little, Wigdor emphasized the complaint was made by an administrative assistant who worked for Portnow. Portnow denies the allegations of rape against him.
Dugan says she asked the Academy not to take action when she initially brought her complaints to their attention because “I wanted to make change from within.” She believes “in what the Recording Academy should stand for for artists.” Then, she said on her first meeting with Katz, she learned of a rape allegation against Portnow that “had not been brought to the attention of the board.”
EW has reached out to the Recording Academy for further comment on Dugan’s claims.