In a dramatic turn of events, Deborah Dugan, the former chief executive of the body behind the Grammy Awards, accused her predecessor Neil Portnow and lawyer Joel Katz of sexual misdemeanour. She filed a discrimination and sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on January 21. Law firm Wigdor LLP filed the charges with the EEOC on behalf of Dugan.
In the 46-page complaint, Dugan alleges that Joel Katz, a key executive at the Academy, sexually harassed her. She added that Katz attempted to kiss her at an expensive dinner he had taken her to and repeatedly referred to her as "baby".
However, the most explosive charges in the complaint were against Neil Portnow. Dugan said Portnow "allegedly raped a female recording artist." The woman is not named but described as "foreign,", adding that "which was, upon information and belief, the real reason his contract was not renewed."
The complaint specifies that Dugan was attending a three-day meeting of the Academy's Board at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel last May, when she came to know about the accusation against Portnow. "Dugan was hauled into a conference room and told for the very first time that a foreign recording artist (and member of the Academy) had accused Portnow of raping her following a performance that she gave at Carnegie Hall."
She, however, did not provide the artist's name or any further details about the alleged rape. She also claims that the board was aware of the incident.
Dugan was removed from her position at the Recording Academy last week, days ahead of the Award awards ceremony. She was appointed as the chief of the body about five months ago and was the organization's first female chief executive.
In her complaint with the EEOC, Dugan said the Recording Academy was retaliating against her by presenting a false pretext to put her on leave. Dugan alleges that she was put on administrative leave from the chief executive role last week after she lodged a complaint in December about sexual harassment, voting irregularities and conflicts of interest.
Grammy Awards process manipulated?
These are some of the allegations Dugan raised
- Some board members on the "secret committees," which choose the Grammy nominees, represent or have relationships with nominated artists
- The Board uses these committees as an opportunity to push forward artists with whom they have relationships
- The Board also manipulates the nominations process to ensure that certain songs or albums are nominated when the producer of the Grammys (Ken Ehrlich) wants a particular song performed during the show
- The Board is permitted to simply add in artists for nominations who did not even make the initial 20-artist list
- 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 that 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 — over Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.
Accusation involved other members at the Academy
- She was asked to offer Portnow a $750,000 consulting contract
- "...egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members and voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards, all made possible by the 'boys' club' mentality and approach to governance at the Academy".
- "Katz and his law firm are paid an exorbitant amount of money by the Academy," including $250,000 per year plus reimbursement of travel and expenses that were incurred without any prior authorization simply to be on call in the event the Board needs any legal advice.
- According to the news reports, Greenberg Traurig billed the Board for over $15m in legal work over a period of only a few years," and that "Katz and his law firm," as well as others including "Proskauer Rose (and former Proskauer Rose partner, Chuck Ortner)" have billed "millions of dollars to the Academy, which is a not-for-profit entity".
- Dugan's assistant, Claudine Little, was monitoring her emails and sharing information with Academy board members and executives.
All the accusation above were part of the discrimination complaint filed by the ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan. Joel Katz and Neil Portnow have not made any comments on the charges yet. The story will be updated when the comments are available.