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Boss of US Recording Academy put on “administrative leave” after allegations of misconduct

By | Published on Friday 17 January 2020

Deborah Dugan

The newish boss of the US Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan – who only took on the CEO role last August – has been placed on “administrative leave”, despite the organisation’s biggest weekend, the Grammy Awards, being just over a week away.

In a stern statement, the Academy said: “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 Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan on administrative leave, effective immediately. The board has also retained two independent third party investigators to conduct independent investigations of the allegations”.

Although details of the specific allegations of misconduct are not known, sources have told Billboard that there were tensions between Dugan and the music industry organisation’s board and staff almost from the off.

Opinion seems divided over what caused those tensions. Some say it’s because the new boss was unwilling to utilise the music industry expertise of her team and navigate all that tedious music community politics. Others say that the real problem was that – despite Dugan being hired to shake things up, especially around diversity – most of those involved in the Academy weren’t really ready for a shake up.

Also, although Dugan’s predecessor Neil Portnow ran into controversy in the latter part of his stint in the CEO role, especially over his comments regarding the lack of gender diversity at the Grammy Awards, he remained very popular among staff there.

“The board determined this action to be necessary in order to restore the confidence of the Recording Academy’s membership, repair Recording Academy employee morale, and allow the Recording Academy to focus on its mission of serving all music creators”, the official statement added.

Although Dugan is officially on “administrative leave”, she’s not expected to return to the CEO role, and has reportedly hired legal counsel to deal with the fall out. Chair of the Academy board Harvey Mason Jr will fill in as CEO on an interim basis.