Four days after the Recording Academy placed President and CEO Deborah Dugan on administrative leave amid an “investigation” into alleged misconduct, interim President/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. has issued a statement claiming Dugan demanded “millions of dollars” to withdraw complaints she made about the organization and resign.
The Recording Academy forced Dugan out on January 16. Since then, several media outlets have reported she was pushed in retaliation for a memo she wrote challenging the group’s “exorbitant and unnecessary” spending, voting irregularities, conflicts of interest, and other issues.Deborah Dugan at the 62nd Grammy Awards nominations press conference on Nov. 20, 2019. AP Images
Mason countered those reports Monday, by claiming Dugan didn’t formally voice concerns about the Recording Academy until she thought her job was in jeopardy.
Related StoryGabrielle Union Voices Support For Ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan
“After we received the employee complaints against Ms. Dugan, she then (for the first time) made allegations against the Academy. In response, we started a separate investigation into Ms. Dugan’s allegations,” Mason stated in his letter published on the Grammys website.
“Ms. Dugan’s attorney then informed the executive committee that if Ms. Dugan was paid millions of dollars, she would ‘withdraw’ her allegations and resign from her role as CEO. Following that communication from Ms. Dugan’s attorney, Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave as we complete both of these ongoing investigations,” Mason added.
He also blasted “leaks” and the breathless media coverage of Dugan’s exit just days before the Grammy Awards on January 26.
“I’m deeply disturbed and saddened by the ‘leaks’ and misinformation, which are fueling a press campaign designed to create leverage against the Academy for personal gain,” Mason said.
He then urged the media to focus its attention on the nominated artists.
“As Grammy week is upon us, I truly hope we can focus our attention on the artists who’ve received nominations and deserve to be celebrated at this time of the year, and not give credence to unsubstantiated attacks on the Academy,” he said.
Dugan has assembled a legal team that includes powerhouse Hollywood attorney Bryan Freedman, who is also representing Gabrielle Union following her exit from NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
On Saturday Union voiced support for the ousted executive on social media..
“Coulda sworn this is the same board that told women to ‘step up,’” the actress tweeted. “Clearly what they really meant was stand down, turn a blind eye to problems, or be fired. #DeborahDugan truly stepped up & tried to make necessary changes & was shown the door. Been there, done that, got fired too.”
The “step up” comment was in reference to longtime Recording Academy boss Neil Portnow, who exited last year after coming under fire for a comment he made after the 2018 Grammys, saying female musicians needed to “step up” if they expect to win more awards.
Read Mason’s Full Letter Below:
GRAMMYS JAN 20, 2020 – 3:27 PM
As a proud member of our music community and the Recording Academy’s interim President and CEO, I thought it important that I reach out to you all directly about Deborah Dugan. In her brief time with the Academy, Ms. Dugan and I were in sync about taking a fresh look at everything and making any and all changes necessary to improve the Academy as well as making it more current and relevant to the creative community we serve. I remain committed to that goal.
In November of 2019, the Executive Committee became aware of abusive work environment complaints alleged against Ms. Dugan and in December 2019, a letter was sent from an attorney representing a staff member that included additional detailed and serious allegations of a “toxic and intolerable” and “abusive and bullying” environment created by Ms. Dugan towards the staff. Given these concerning reports, the Executive Committee launched an immediate and independent investigation into the alleged misconduct of Ms. Dugan.
After we received the employee complaints against Ms. Dugan, she then (for the first time) made allegations against the Academy. In response, we started a separate investigation into Ms. Dugan’s allegations. Ms. Dugan’s attorney then informed the Executive Committee that if Ms. Dugan was paid millions of dollars, she would “withdraw” her allegations and resign from her role as CEO. Following that communication from Ms. Dugan’s attorney, Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave as we complete both of these ongoing investigations.
I’m deeply disturbed and saddened by the “leaks” and misinformation, which are fueling a press campaign designed to create leverage against the Academy for personal gain. As GRAMMY week is upon us, I truly hope we can focus our attention on the artists who’ve received nominations and deserve to be celebrated at this time of the year, and not give credence to unsubstantiated attacks on the Academy. To do otherwise is just not right.
As you know the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees is composed of creative and technical artists and music makers from all genres, who’ve devoted their lives to making music and volunteering their time dedicated to the mission of the Recording Academy. These Trustees, as well as the Governors in our 12 chapters, give their time freely and passionately. Many are entrepreneurs who run small businesses devoted to their art, and generously donate their time not only to recognize their peers, but to fight for the rights of music makers, foster music education, and provide support to those in need all year long. Furthermore, our hardworking and knowledgeable staff could not be more dedicated to supporting and furthering our mission. The current attacks on the Academy are attacks on these people, which are unwarranted, uninformed and unconscionable.
I encourage anyone who is truly interested to go beyond the sensational sound bites and teaser headlines and look at what the Academy actually does and how it functions. Don’t buy into headlines generated for personal gain but seek the truth as I am doing. As I mentioned we have initiated two independent investigations to explore all claims and present objective findings. My pledge to you is that I will address the findings of these investigations fairly and honestly and work to make needed repairs and changes while ensuring we have an Academy that honors diversity, inclusion and a safe work environment for all concerned.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and your support of our Recording Academy.
Harvey Mason, Jr.