The Recording Academy is investigating the sexual harassment allegation made by ousted CEO Deborah Dugan against the organization’s general counsel Joel Katz, according to a memo sent to its voting members on Thursday.
In the memo, obtained by Billboard, interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said Dugan’s claims are “being independently investigated by a law firm with no previous ties to the Academy.” Mason added that “we take that allegation very seriously.” Katz was never mentioned by name.
Dugan, who was placed on leave on Jan. 16, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Jan. 21 in which she said that Katz sexually harassed her during a dinner last year. Katz’s attorney denied the allegations and said that Katz “will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth.”
The memo sent by Mason also addressed Dugan’s allegation that the Academy was overspending on legal fees, including payments to Katz. Mason defended the group’s spending, saying, “Viewed as a percentage of the size of deals our lawyers negotiated, our legal fees are well in line with industry standards.”
As for Dugan’s assertion that the Academy’s voting process for the Grammys are “rigged,” Mason said in the memo, “We do realize that the nomination and voting process needs to be better understood so we have taken steps to make it more public and to educate people about how it works to preserve fairness and protect Nominations Review Committee members from lobbying and pressure.” He added the allegation was “utterly false.”
Last month, Dugan sent a letter to the Executive Committee of the Board in an effort to have her dispute removed from arbitration and into public court. She called for transparency in the investigation into her claims and said that the investigator who was brought on to look into her allegations was hired by a law firm that she says is “in bed” with the Academy.
As part of her EEOC claim, Dugan said that she was paid “substantially less” than her predecessor, Neil Portnow. TheWrap discovered that Portnow was paid $2.6 million in the year before he stepped down from overseeing the Grammys organization. An individual with knowledge of her contract told TheWrap that Dugan’s salary was more than $1 million less than Portnow’s.
Dugan also said that Portnow had been accused of raping a female recording artist. Portnow called the accusations “ludicrous and untrue” and said an independent investigation had exonerated him.