Recording Academy chief executive Deborah Duggan was placed on leave January 16, just ten days before the organization was to present the 62nd Grammy Awards ceremony. Duggan was hired in June of 2019 to bring a more updated approach to an institution known as a predominately white and male old boys club filled with favoritism and voting irregularities.
According to multiple reports, the new partnership fell apart after a longtime administrative assistant under previous CEO Neil Portnow and then Dugan filed a complaint that her new boss bullied her. Dugan reportedly sought a $22 million buyout to go quietly, which she has denied.
Dugan subsequently filed a 44-page complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that accused the Recording Academy of retaliating against her for uncovering sexual harassment as well as the aforementioned voting irregularities and conflicts of interest among board members. When asked why she waited to go public with these problems until after she was dismissed, Duggan says she was working to change the culture from within as head of the academy.
Subsequent criticism of Dugan came when board members said she was moving too fast to make changes ahead of the January 26 television broadcast without fully understanding how the organization worked. She reportedly also ignored employee opinions, which led to staff turmoil and what one called a toxic work environment.
The stakes remain high
Many critics (particularly those who are young, colored or women) believe the Grammys are irrelevant. However, they are still a significant award that has professional and artistic credibility, at least for now. The back and forth between her and the organization reflects badly on both, and it looks like they are a long way from resolving this matter on their own. More to come as this dispute continues to unfold, with a potential court date in the distance if the two sides continue to battle.