The Recording Academy and its ousted president and CEO Deborah Dugan have officially entered mediation, just over a month after their dispute broke into the open, sources confirm to Variety. While a report in Billboard states that mediation began today, a source tells Variety that the two parties have been in communication for at least several days.
After weeks of discord between Dugan and the Academy’s Board of Trustees that began almost as soon as she assumed her post on August 1, she was abruptly placed on administrative leave, ostensibly for “misconduct” toward an employee (which seemingly amounted to some possible verbal abuse), but more likely because her agenda for change was too sweeping for the slow-moving organization.
Days after she was placed on leave, Dugan filed a bombshell complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging “egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members and voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards”; millions in “exorbitant and unnecessary” fees paid to outside law firms; that her emails were being monitored and shared with Academy executives by her assistant; and not least, two serious allegations of sexual misconduct against senior Academy executives. In response, the Academy has made statements promising to finally act on the recommendations of its Task Force for Diversity, denied accusations of corruption its nominations process, and has made unspecific blanket denials of other allegations.
While the Academy has made statements defending its nomination policies and made a show of reactivating the Task Force — without acknowledging that it failed to take the Task Force recommendations seriously — it has yet to answer many of the questions raised by the complaint.
However, Dugan has little to gain from the situation except for a better settlement than the one her complaint says she was offered. The complaint says that the two parties were close to a quiet separation agreement late in December, but the Academy abruptly withdrew its initial offer — which sources say was around the $8 million severance in her employment contract — and came back with a much smaller offer, which Dugan rejected. She was then placed on leave and the argument became public.
While Dugan seems to be leaving the picture, her accusations are not — will the Academy enact real reform in the wake of the scandals of the past few weeks? Or is it back to the “boys’ club” that the Task Force was created to reform?