Former Recording Academy Chief Neil Portnow Accused of Raping Female Recording Artist

The accusation was part of a discrimination complaint filed by ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan on Tuesday

Neil Portnow, the former CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences that oversees the Grammy Awards, on Tuesday was accused of raping an unnamed female recording artist.

In a discrimination complaint filed Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan, said that Portnow “allegedly raped a female recording artist, which was, upon information and belief, the real reason his contract was not renewed.”

Dugan, who replaced Portnow last May to become the first woman to lead the Recording Academy, did not name the artist or offer many details about when the alleged incident might have occurred.

In her complaint, Dugan said that she learned of the accusation last May while attending a three-day meeting of the Academy’s Board at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel after taking the job. “Ms. Dugan was hauled into a conference room and told — for the very first time — that a foreign recording artist (and member of the Academy) had accused Mr. Portnow of raping her following a performance that she gave at Carnegie Hall,” the complaint reads.

Portnow could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Recording Academy issued a response to Dugan’s complaint: “It is curious that Ms. Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee who alleged Ms. Dugan had created a ‘toxic and intolerable’ work environment and engaged in ‘abusive and bullying conduct’. When Ms. Dugan did raise her ‘concerns’ to HR, she specifically instructed HR ‘not to take any action’ in response.

Nonetheless, we immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan’s potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations. Both of these investigations remain ongoing. Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave only after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organization. Our loyalty will always be to the 25,000 members of the recording industry. We regret that Music’s Biggest Night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan’s actions and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”

Dugan’s attorneys, Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin, dispute the Academy’s statements. “Ms. Dugan repeatedly raised concerns throughout her entire tenure at the Academy, and even gave large presentations focused on diversity and inclusion at Board meetings,” they wrote. “The Academy has lost its way and abandoned the recording industry, instead focusing on self-dealing and turning blind eye to the ‘boys’ club’ environment, obvious improprieties and conflicts of interest.”

Her attorneys continued: “It was never Ms. Dugan’s intention to turn this into a public fight precisely because of her love for music and the members of the recording industry. Unfortunately, staying silent was made impossible by the Board’s repeated leaks and disclosures of false and misleading information to the press.”

They also disputed the Recording Academy’s claim that Dugan sought a $22 million payout to leave her position. “On the morning of the day she was put on leave, the Academy offered Ms. Dugan millions of dollars to drop all of this and leave the Academy. The Board Chair demanded an answer within the hour,” the attorneys wrote. “When Ms. Dugan refused to accept and walk away, she was put on leave. The Academy claimed that Ms. Dugan was put on leave based on accusations made against her over a month prior that the Board knows very well are meritless. That is not a credible story.”

In her complaint, Dugan said the the accusation was presented to her as if the Board had just learned of it but “in reality, they were well aware of the allegation at the time Ms. Dugan agreed to take the CEO position, but never told her.” Dugan also said the Recording Academy pressured her into rehiring Portnow as a consultant for the “hefty sum of $750,000,” which she said she refused to do.

Dugan also accused Joel Katz, the Academy’s general counsel, of sexually harassing her during the three-day meeting. Katz said in an email he is not responding to media inquiries: “I am currently out of the office with a respiratory infection. I will not be checking email or taking calls until I’m feeling better.”

Dugan also said that a letter sent by interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. to the Academy membership on Monday was “designed to retaliate against Ms. Dugan, threaten her, and malign her reputation.”

In the letter, Mason Jr. said that Dugan was placed on administrative leave after the Academy’s executive committee received a letter from Dugan’s attorney saying she would agree to step down from her role as CEO and “withdraw” her accusations if she was paid out, with Billboard reporting on Monday she asked for the sum of $22 million.

You can read Dugan’s complaint with the EEOC below.

Filed EEOC Supplement by Sharon Waxman on Scribd