Part of Dugan’s explosive complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges that a foreign recording artist accused Portnow of raping her following a performance she gave at Carnegie Hall. The complaint says that despite knowledge of this, the board requested Dugan approve a $750,000 consulting fee for Portnow, which she denied.
In a statement to USA TODAY provided by representative Sallie Olmsted, Portnow called Dugan’s claims “inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful,” adding that he would “vigorously defend all false claims.” He also denied asking for a $750,000 consulting fee.
“The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue,” the statement continued. “The suggestion that there was is disseminating a lie. The baseless complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the Board of Director’s Executive Committee. An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally.”
Portnow also addressed the timeline of his departure from the academy. The former president’s contract was not renewed after he said women needed to “step up” when asked about the lack of female winners at the Grammys in 2018.
“After making the ‘step up’ comment during the 2018 telecast, for which I have apologized and deeply regret the offense caused, and understanding the power of listening and lessons learned, I took action,” Portnow’s statement said. “I proposed, and the Academy created an independent Task Force to review the state of diversity & inclusion across the organization. After presenting the Task Force plan and proposed study of the organization to the board, the group was created to implement change. Task Force Chair Tina Tchen made a presentation to the full Board during a May 2019 meeting.”
On Wednesday Dugan’s lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin, maintained their client stands behind her complaint “100%.”
“Mr. Portnow’s statement is only the most recent in a series of defamatory attacks aimed at Ms. Dugan because she is a women who has shown the courage to stand up for what is right,” her lawyers said in a statement to USA TODAY. “When read carefully, it is clear that Mr. Portnow does not even deny that an allegation of rape was made, although the statement appears wordsmithed to leave the false impression that there was no allegation.”
On Tuesday, just days before the Grammy Awards, Dugan filed a complaint alleging unlawful gender discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation and unequal pay against the academy.
The complaint accuses the academy of improper self-dealing by board members, voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards, shunning Dugan’s attempts at fostering diversity and transparency, and other misconduct.
Dueling narratives have formed about why Dugan left her job. The academy says an employee accused Dugan of creating “a toxic and intolerable” work environment and engaging in “abusive and bullying conduct” during her five-month tenure as the academy’s president, according to a statement provided to USA TODAY on Tuesday by academy spokesperson Lourdes Lopez.
The academy said investigations into Dugan’s potential misconduct remain ongoing.
Claudine Little, the academy’s former director of administration, identified herself as the employee who filed a formal complaint against Dugan, calling her behavior “inexcusable.”
“Ms. Dugan’s choice to litigate in the press and spread a false narrative about the academy and me and my colleagues is regrettable, but it is also emblematic of Ms. Dugan’s abusive and bullying conduct,” Little said in a statement to USA TODAY on Wednesday. “I am proud of my career with the Academy … working for and with leaders far more demanding and hard-charging than Ms. Dugan. It is disappointing that Ms. Dugan hopes to leverage public opinion along gender lines and expects not to be scrutinized for her inexcusable behavior simply because she is a woman; she should be held to the same standard.”
Contributing: Rasha Ali, Andrea Mandell and Cydney Henderson
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