The Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards, reached a confidential deal with Deborah Dugan, its ousted CEO, just weeks before arbitration hearings began over her firing.
In a joint statement released Thursday evening, the two sides said, “The Recording Academy and Deborah Dugan have agreed to resolve their differences and keep the terms of their agreement private.”
By settling in, the Recording Academy avoids what might have been a rare glimpse of its opaque internal politics. Arbitration was scheduled to begin July 12 in Los Angeles, and despite previous promises to make the hearings open to the public, the academy had lobbied in recent weeks to keep the proceedings a secret.
The settlement ends a controversial period in Grammy history. Ms Dugan, a former media executive who had led Red, the nonprofit co-founded by Bono from U2, was brought into the academy in 2019 as an agent of change. The academy has for years faced complaints about its voting process and poor record of recognizing women and people of color in numerous awards, and in 2018, Neil Portnow, Ms Dugan’s predecessor, has been criticized for suggesting that women should “up” to be recognized at the Grammys.
But Ms Dugan only spent five months at the helm. In January 2020, just 10 days before the ceremony that year, Ms Dugan was put on administrative leave – and then fired – for what the academy said were “concerns raised with the board of directors of the Recording Academy, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior woman on the Recording Academy team.
In a discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms Dugan said her dismissal was an act of retaliation after she challenged the ‘boys club’ which she said dominated the academy. It also happened weeks after she wrote a detailed letter to the academy’s human resources department alleging voting irregularities, financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest.
Perhaps most shocking to music insiders, Ms Dugan also accused a prominent attorney outside the academy of making unwanted sexual advances on her shortly after getting the job. (This lawyer, Joel Katz, took issue with Ms Dugan’s account.)
The academy has denied her claims and described her as a disruptive force within the organization, which sees itself as a home for the entire music community.
“What we expected was change without chaos,” said Christine Albert, the academy’s emeritus advisor at the time, in an interview with the New York Times after Ms Dugan was fired but before she was fired. she did not file her discrimination complaint.
Ms Dugan’s lawyers declined to comment further on the settlement. Representatives of the Recording Academy did not respond to requests for comment early Friday.