Suspended CEO behind Grammys says organization is 'boy's club' in lawsuit

Suspended CEO behind Grammys says organization is 'boy's club' in lawsuit
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The head of the organization behind music's Grammy Awards is accusing it of having a "boys' club" mentality in a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment. 

Deborah Dugan, who was recently put on administrative leave as National Academy of Recording Arts (NARA) CEO after a complaint was made by an employee who accused her of bullying, alleges sexual harassment and "irregularities with Grammy nominations," according to a report by CNN.

She also claims her predecessor, Neil Portnow, raped a recording artist, who is not named in the suit. She also contends in her lawsuit that when she was hired, the board of the NARC told her of the accusation against Portnow, but presented it as something they had only just learned about, according to The New York Times.


"In reality, they were well aware of the allegation at the time Ms Dugan agreed to take on the CEO position, but never told her," the lawsuit states, according to a report in The Guardian.

Portnow, who has not been charged with a crime, vehemently denied the charge to The New York Times, saying “the allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue.”

The NARA told CNN it thought it was "curious" that Dugan was only raising the allegations after an employee had accused her of creating a toxic environment. 

It also said Dugan was placed on leave after she first offered to step down, but asked for $22 million from the NARA. 

Dugan, the first woman to lead the organization behind the Grammys, says the claim she asked for a $22 million payout is "flat out false."

Dugan's lawsuit includes claims of discrimination and of unsavory practices in determining what gets nominated for a Grammy. 


She claimed that the board manipulates the nomination process to ensure certain songs or albums will win nominations, in part to ensure the artists behind them will perform during a televised ceremony. 

Dugan asserts that there is an "outrageous" conflict of interests within the board selection process.

"Naturally, the members of the Board and the secret committees chose artists with whom they have personal or business relationships," the complaint reads.

She said that in one case, a song that had been ranked 18th of 20 secured one of eight nominations as song of the year. The artist who did the song sat on the committee making the decision, Dugan contends. 

Dugan claims that Joel Katz, general counsel for the Academy, sexually harassed her in May 2019. She alleges in an email sent to human resources on Dec. 22, 2019, that Katz invited her to dinner and "acted extremely inappropriately," including calling her "baby" and attempting to kiss her.

Katz, through a lawyer who gave a statement to The New York Times, disputed the account, saying it was false and that he "categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening.”

Dugan accused the academy of having lost its way, and her attorneys said she had told the group of the need to increase its diversity and take her concerns seriously.

"As alleged, the Academy has lost its way and abandoned the recording industry, instead focusing on self-dealing and turning blind eye to the 'boys' club' environment, obvious improprieties and conflicts of interest," her attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin, told CNN in a statement.