Days before Grammys, academy chief suspended

The Grammy Awards are the biggest night for the music industry (AFP Photo/Don EMMERT )

Los Angeles (AFP) - The embattled organization behind the Grammys has put its chief executive on leave just over a week before it puts on its awards gala known as music's biggest night.

In a statement the Recording Academy said it had placed Deborah Dugan -- the first woman to lead the body -- on administrative leave following "a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team."

The institution said two independent investigators are probing the allegations, but did not give further details regarding the bombshell move that comes just days before the Grammy awards -- where superstars Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X are among the top nominees -- on January 26 in Los Angeles.

The 2020 celebration was to be the first under Dugan, who took over as Academy chief last summer after her predecessor Neil Portnow came under fire by saying women should "step up" for increased recognition.

Dugan's lawyer Bryan Freedman tweeted a statement saying that "when our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you 'step up' at the Recording Academy."

Citing a person close to the matter, The New York Times said an employee who had been the assistant to Portnow had filed a complaint accusing Dugan of a "bullying management style."

The paper also said Dugan had sent a memo to the organization's head of human resources several weeks ago detailing concerns including voting irregularities, financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest.

When the Grammy nominees were announced in November Dugan has heralded "a new era for the Recording Academy," pointing to "an army of engaged members that welcomes diversity, embraces creativity and champions young musicians on the rise."

In 2018 the organization created a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in response to major backlash that the Grammys are consistently too male and too white.