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Less Than 2 Weeks Before Grammy Awards, Recording Academy CEO Is Suspended


Less than two weeks before the Grammys, the head of the group that hands out those awards has been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports that the turmoil inside The Recording Academy casts a cloud over what it likes to call music's biggest night.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Deborah Dugan had only been on the job as president and CEO of The Recording Academy for less than six months. A statement from the board of trustees announced the news of her leave late yesterday, referring to a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of The Recording Academy team. One source says there was more than one complaint about Dugan. The academy will not say what the allegation is or who is accused of committing misconduct. Its statement did say it's hired to separate outside firms to investigate. Dugan was hired to replace Neil Portnow, who stirred up his own controversy two years ago backstage at the Grammys, when he said women need to, quote, "step up" to get ahead in the music industry. Last year, he went on stage promising more diversity and inclusion.


NEIL PORTNOW: Because this past year I've been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues.


DEL BARCO: To that end, the academy formed a task force led by Time's Up head Tina Tchen. It released its report in December, and Dugan spoke to NPR at the time.


DEBORAH DUGAN: We've known as an industry for a long time that we have a monumental problem with gender issues. We have set goals, for example, in our membership to double the amount of women by 2025.

DEL BARCO: Dugan said she was committed to a major restructuring.


DUGAN: We're examining everything, absolutely everything to say, with this new lens, how could we be?

DEL BARCO: The New York Times is reporting that three weeks ago, Dugan wrote a memo alleging conflicts of interest, voting irregularities and financial mismanagement within the academy.

MELINDA NEWMAN: We don't really know what happened yet. I had someone who said maybe she went too far with it too quickly.

DEL BARCO: Melinda Newman is executive editor for the West Coast in Nashville at Billboard magazine.

NEWMAN: I mean, we've got now one side saying we should try to make a change - she was hit with resistance - and another side saying we really wanted to work with her to make changes, and we just weren't able to get on the same page.

DEL BARCO: The Recording Academy's board chair is taking over as interim president and CEO. Newman says all of this came as a shock to the music industry.

NEWMAN: This is such palace intrigue for people in the industry. For fans of music and people who watch the Grammys, I don't think they care.

DEL BARCO: Whatever happens behind the scenes, the awards ceremony is still set for January 26.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition,, and