Grammy Awards boss ‘has evidence’ votes were ‘rigged’

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A crisis at the Grammy Awards has deepened after the chief executive of the organising body, who is currently suspended, said she had evidence of “serious” irregularities in the voting.

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Deborah Dugan has spoken for the first time since the Recording Academy put her on administrative leave last week.

The Academy has questioned Dugan’s timing, saying she only came forward after being accused of misconduct.

The row threatens to overshadow Sunday’s star-studded ceremony.

Dugan rejected the Academy’s narrative, saying she had been trying “to make change from within” before going public.

Speaking to ABC News, she said: “I was trying at each step to take a deep breath and say, ‘OK, I can make a difference, I can fix this, I can work with this team.'”

The Academy said it has launched two independent investigations – into the complaints made by Dugan, and those made against her.

In the ABC interview, she explained that the prestigious US music awards were “tainted” by conflicts of interest.

Dugan’s accusations first emerged in an explosive 44-page complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Tuesday.

In the complaint, she described the Grammys as a “boys’ club” where votes were manipulated by “secret committees”.

In particular, she outlined an incident where an unnamed artist and their representative sat on the nominating committee for the song of the year category in 2019.

As a result, she claimed, that artist ended up on the shortlist ahead of acts like Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.

Dugan declined to name the musician who had been promoted to the shortlist to protect their “privacy” and “integrity”, but argued that artists “deserve better” than the current system.

“It’s mostly white males that are in those rooms that make these decisions, and there’s a conflict of interest,” she said in a separate interview on CBS breakfast show This Morning.

“If you represent that artist, you have a financial gain if they get nominated for a Grammy. So rigged is a term you would apply to it?” asked CBS reporter Tony Dokoupil.

“Yes it is,” Dugan replied.

The Recording Academy called the allegations “spurious” and “categorically false”.

“There are strict rules in place to address any conflict of interest,” said the organisation’s chief awards’ officer Bill Freimuth.

“Should a committee member qualify for a Grammy, they are required to leave the room for the entire listening session and are NOT allowed to vote in that category.”

“This process is strictly enforced with everyone involved and has no exceptions.”

Deborah Dugan

At the end of the interview, Dugan was asked whether she was planning to watch the Grammy ceremony on Sunday.

“I am,” she replied. “I worked very hard on the show and I love the artists that are going to be performing.”

When asked if others could watch the show in “good conscience”, Dugan hesitated before replying: “Yes, I think so.”

Beyond the allegations of voting irregularities, Dugan discussed her claim of sexual harassment against Joel Katz, an entertainment lawyer who is the Academy’s general counsel.

In her complaint to the EEOC, she said Katz made suggestive comments and tried to kiss her at a dinner last May, when she was being considered for the Academy’s top job.

“I felt like I was being tested in how much I would acquiesce,” she said. “And I realised that that was a power-setting move, just on the onset, as I was coming in to the committee.”

Katz’s lawyer Howard Weitzman said his client “categorically and emphatically denies” Dugan’s account.

“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,” he added.

Dugan also dismissed the idea that she had bullied her assistant – a claim the Academy said led to her suspension.

BBC

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