Grammy Awards 2020: Scandal at the Top–Removal of Prexy and CEO Deborah Dugan

Januray 17, 2020–The music industry is reeling after Deborah Dugan’s sudden removal from her post as president-CEO of the Recording Academy on Thursday, only five months after she had taken charge, and just ten days before the Grammy Awards telecast.

Even insiders were stunned by the abruptness of the move and perplexed by the purported reasons for it. Whatever the cause, it threw the Academy, which was preparing for its first show under a new boss into chaos.

An official statement reads: “In light of concerns raised to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team, the Board has placed Dugan on administrative leave, effective immediately.”

But sources say that what may have taken place was a “coup.” It was a move by entrenched Academy veterans to discredit and remove Dugan, who came in promising significant changes to the organization, before she could establish herself with a successful first show.

According to the N.Y. Times, Dugan had sent a memo to the Academy’s human resources department, saying that she was concerned about the organization’s practices and spending, stating that “something was seriously amiss at the Academy” and citing voting irregularities, financial mismanagement, “exorbitant and unnecessary” legal bills, and conflicts of interest involving members of the academy’s board, executive committee and outside lawyers.

The board, which consists of four officers and 40 trustees, controls the organization. While members are not paid, the role comes with travel, entertainment and other perks. Board chair Harvey Mason, Jr., a veteran songwriter and producer, has taken Dugan’s role on an interim basis.

One source said that the unnamed female employee leveled claims of discrimination against Dugan and sexual-harassment charges against another unspecified employee. The situation became “very nasty,” the source said. (Reps for the Academy did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment on that specific claim; overall, they declined comment beyond the initial statement.)

While that scenario, or some variation on it, is possible, the allegations would have to be very strong for the Academy to place Dugan on leave just 10 days before “Music’s Biggest Night.” The wording of the statement is also puzzling because there are few senior female executives at the Academy, although the use of the word “team” expands or obfuscates who might have alleged misconduct.