Saturday, April 20, 2024

Recording Academy Terminates Deborah Dugan After “Administrative Leave” Following Her “unwarranted and damaging media campaign” to Destroy the Grammys


The Grammys have terminated ousted CEO Deborah Dugan following her being placed “administrative leave” this winter.

Here’s the memo from Harvey Mason, Jr:

Dear Members:

As you know, Deborah Dugan has been on a paid administrative leave of absence since January 16, 2020.  We are writing to let you know that, earlier today, the Board of Trustees voted to terminate Ms. Dugan’s employment as President/CEO of the Recording Academy.

This decision of the Board, with full support of the Executive Committee, was based on:

  • Two exhaustive, costly independent investigations relating to Ms. Dugan and the allegations made against her and by her. These investigations were carried out by experienced individuals with no prior relationship to the Academy, interviewed a combined total of 37 witnesses, and reviewed numerous relevant documents and emails. The investigators were not given any directives about what specifically to investigate or what conclusions, if any, they were expected to reach, and they were not limited by the Academy in terms of what witnesses they could interview or files or documents they could review.  Each investigator had free rein to fully investigate all of the allegations that were made against Ms. Dugan and by Ms. Dugan against the Recording Academy.
  • The unwarranted and damaging media campaign that she launched in an attempt, without justification, to derail the GRAMMY Awards show, including her false allegations that the system was—in her words—“rigged” and that the Academy was “corrupt.”
  • Ms. Dugan’s consistent management deficiencies and failures, and other factors.

All of this led the elected leaders of the Academy to conclude that it was in the best interests of the Academy to move on.

This is not what we wanted or what we expected when we hired Ms. Dugan last year.  At the time, we placed our trust in her and believed she would effectively lead the organization.  Unfortunately, that is not what happened.  Though she made some valuable contributions, Ms. Dugan failed to perform her job duties as promised and expected.

Although we did participate in some settlement discussions at Ms. Dugan’s request after she stated that it was her desire to leave the Academy and be bought out of her employment contract, we were ultimately compelled to dismiss Ms. Dugan as our President/CEO.  Not removing Ms. Dugan from the organization at this time would have caused us to compromise our values.  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.

The Board’s decision to dismiss Ms. Dugan closes one chapter in the Recording Academy’s history.  It also begins a new one.  In the coming days, we will initiate a search for a new President/CEO who will leverage the Academy’s diverse membership and rich history and help us transform it to better serve our members today and into the future.  As we structure this new search, we will look carefully to see where the last one led us astray and make any necessary changes going forward.

It is not uncommon for organizations and leaders to part ways after a short period. It usually happens without rancor. Unfortunately, in this case, Ms. Dugan sought to damage our reputation on her way out, and it is likely we will see more attempts to disparage the Academy in the coming weeks. We regret that, as members of the Academy, you have had to endure so much recent negativity.

From this point forward, our focus will be on moving forward with the transformation agenda we initiated prior to hiring Ms. Dugan, and on working to improve the Academy.  Much of this work has been happening but much of it is yet to come. We realize that we are not perfect, but we want you to know that our attention and energy will remain squarely on you and on the positive changes we are making together.  We will not be distracted from that.  We will use this moment to reflect on where we can be better, and pledge to realize a future in which our organization is known for its diversity, transparency, creativity, mutual respect, and overall excellence.

Thank you for your support and continued service and commitment to the Recording Academy.

-The Executive Committee of the Recording Academy

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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