Ousted Grammys Chief Deborah Dugan Is Fired

Deborah Dugan, the embattled president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, was fired by the group’s board on Monday following weeks of internal turmoil between the organization that runs the Grammy Awards and its new leader.

The academy announced Ms. Dugan’s removal in a letter from its executive committee, sent to the organization’s members. “We placed our trust in her and believed she would effectively lead the organization,” the committee wrote in the letter. “Unfortunately, that is not what happened.”

Ms. Dugan was first removed from her position in January, when the academy placed her on administrative leave five months after she joined the organization and 10 days before the Grammy Awards.

At the time, the academy attributed its decision to a “formal allegation of misconduct” against Ms. Dugan. But in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms. Dugan said her removal was retaliation for speaking up against misconduct within the organization, including sexual harassment, corrupt voting procedures and conflicts of interest among board members. She also said she was harassed by Joel Katz, a powerful industry lawyer with deep ties to the academy. He has denied the allegations.

“While I am disappointed by this latest development,” Ms. Dugan said in a statement, “I am not surprised given the academy’s pattern of dealing with whistle-blowers. Is anyone surprised that its purported investigations did not include interviewing me or addressing the greater claims of conflicts of interest and voting irregularities?”

Ms. Dugan’s lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin, said in their own statement, “The decision is despicable and, in due course, the academy, its leadership and its attorneys will be held accountable under the law.”

The executive committee’s letter said the board based its decision on two “costly” independent investigations into Ms. Dugan, the “unwarranted and damaging media campaign” it said she launched to “derail the Grammy Awards,” and her “consistent management deficiencies and failures.”

The academy added that it discussed a settlement agreement with Ms. Dugan, but ultimately chose not to follow through with one.

“Not removing Ms. Dugan from the organization at this time would have caused us to compromise our values,” the letter said. “We could not reward her with a lucrative settlement and thereby set a precedent that behavior like hers has no consequence. Our members and employees, and the entire music industry, deserve better than that.”

Ms. Dugan, the Recording Academy’s first female president, was heralded as a fresh start for a group criticized for lagging behind in racial and gender diversity — particularly after her predecessor, Neil Portnow, had called for women in the industry to “step up” for recognition. When the academy tapped Ms. Dugan for the gig in May 2019, her résumé included roles as the chief executive of Bono’s Red charity, president of Disney Publishing Worldwide and a lawyer on Wall Street.

The academy will begin searching for a new chief executive in the coming days, the executive committee said in the letter — a search process that will begin, it said, by looking “carefully to see where the last one led us astray.”

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