Recording Academy Lawyer Joel Katz Denies Deborah Dugan’s Sexual Harassment Accusation

Dugan was ousted as Grammy group’s CEO last week

Deborah Dugan
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Joel Katz, the general counsel for the Recording Academy, denied Deborah Dugan’s accusation that he sexually harassed her in a private meeting last year.

Dugan accused Katz of making suggestive comments about her appearance and attempting to flirt with and kiss her during a dinner in May 2019. The accusations were outlined as part of a formal complaint she and her lawyers filed to the EEOC on Tuesday.

“Ms. Dugan’s allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false, and Mr. Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening,” Katz’s attorney Howard Weitzman said in a statement obtained by TheWrap.

“This dinner meeting was 2½ months before Ms. Dugan started her job,” he continued. “Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the Board of Trustees of the Academy, and others, were dining. Ms. Dugan’s claims are made, for the first time, seven months after this dinner took place,” Weitzman continued. “Mr. Katz will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth. Hopefully Ms. Dugan will do the same.”

In a letter Dugan sent to HR that was included as part of her complaint, Dugan said that Katz made advances toward her at a dinner last May, just after she was appointed as CEO (but before officially starting).

“Over the course of the evening, Mr. Katz explained to me that he was very very rich and had many houses, one in Bermuda and other locations. And he reminded me that he had a private plane and informed me that he was lonely and had no one to spend time with. He suggested that spending time together, traveling to his many homes could be something nice for us to share. He talked about his marriage that had failed. I listened politely but made it clear I was not interested in his advances,” she wrote. “At the conclusion of dinner, he leaned forward, lips pursed, as to kiss me. I quickly turned and made my way out of the restaurant.”

Last week, Dugan was placed on administrative leave by the Academy’s executive committee, just days before the 2020 Grammys that take place this coming Sunday.

Interim boss Harvey Mason Jr. revealed in a letter that was sent to membership on Monday that Dugan was being investigated following accusations of misconduct made by a staff member. Mason Jr. said Dugan was accused of creating a “toxic and intolerable” and “abusive and bullying” environment toward her staff.

Then in a complaint filed by her lawyers Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin on Tuesday, Dugan accused the Recording Academy of voting irregularities, financial mismanagement and other conflicts of interest involving the Academy’s board members. A separate investigation into Dugan’s claims was then launched.

Read Dugan’s full EEOC complaint here.