Recording Academy alleges Deborah Dugan demanded 'millions' to withdraw her allegations and resign

Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- The war of words and inflammatory accusations between the Recording Academy and its recently sidelined President and CEO Deborah Dugan heated up further Monday as board chairman Harvey Mason Jr. accused Dugan of offering, through her lawyer, to drop her complaint of wrongdoing and resign in exchange for a multimillion dollar contract buyout.

Dugan only took the position on Aug. 1, but on Thursday, just 10 days ahead of the 2020 Grammy Awards ceremony this Sunday, she was placed on administrative leave in response to a complaint of misconduct filed by "a senior member of the Recording Academy team."

Mason's memo to academy members, a copy of which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, said the employee's complaint contained "serious allegations of a 'toxic and intolerable' and 'abusive and bullying' environment created by Ms. Dugan towards the staff."

A source close to Dugan recently characterized the situation as "a routine HR matter."

Mason also wrote that, "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," Mason's memo stated. "Following that communication from Ms. Dugan's attorney, Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave as we complete both of these ongoing investigations."


Billboard cited two sources at the academy who allege that she had asked for $22 million to withdraw her complaint and that the academy countered with a significantly lower figure, which she rejected.

After the academy went public last week with the misconduct charge, Dugan's lawyer, crisis litigator Bryan Freedman, issued a statement saying, "What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told. When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you 'step up' at the Recording Academy, a public nonprofit."

On Monday, New York employment litigator Douglas Wigdor's firm announced that he has joined her legal team. Wigdor is representing a Jane Doe in the impending criminal trial of movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Freedman represented journalist Megyn Kelly when she exited NBC's "Today" show in October 2018, and also is representing former "America's Got Talent" employee Gabrielle Union in her suit alleging a toxic work environment and racist behavior on the show's set.

Of Dugan's case, Wigdor told the Times by email on Monday, "We will be responding very soon to set the record straight."


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