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NEAR TRUTHS: THE SMOKING GUN AND THE SECRET SOCIETY

THE SMOKING GUN: When the Deborah and Harvey show began, it seemed the pair were fully aligned and that the Academy was on track for substantive change. What happened? When did it all go wrong? On 12/9 of last year, Dugan was informed, via Mason, that the Executive Committee had stripped her of the power to hire and fire, which means things had already come apart. On 12/23, Dugan filed her complaint with HR. Sometime between 12/9 and 12/23, it’s therefore reasonable to assume, erstwhile assistant and career insider Claudine Little filed her formal complaint charging Dugan with “bullying” and creating a hostile workplace. Mason, at the Board’s urging, placed Dugan on administrative leave on 1/16. Next came her walloping 47-page EEOC complaint, which laid out her allegations about harassment, mismanagement and irregularities in eye-popping detail.

Many biz-watchers speculate that these moves against Dugan were intended to halt what they saw as her overly hasty assault on their fiefdoms. Might they have embraced the change she sought had she proceeded more gingerly? Perhaps, but it’s hard to envision them surrendering any of their power and influence. That would have to go to a Board vote and, as one Grammy insider put it, “Turkeys don’t vote for Thanksgiving.”

Mason says he and the Board will move on the recommendations of Tina Tchen’s task force over the next 45 days. People believe Mason wants change—and now, with the drumbeat from the press and elsewhere, there’s a window of opportunity to implement it, though as chief exec, he serves at the pleasure of the Board.

Some believe California Attorney General Xavier Becerra may be opening up an investigation into the Academy’s nonprofit 501(c)(3) status, given the recent allegations surrounding the Academy. Insiders say a formal complaint has been filed with the AG’s office, and that he’s been evaluating said complaint as he weighs whether to open a formal investigation—the possible consequences of which could lead to a revocation of its 501(c)(3) status. That would be financially devastating to the Academy and could result in tens of millions of back taxes and penalties.

SECRET SOCIETY: The Grammy show may have mostly stuck a difficult landing, but that doesn’t change the fact that those voting irregularities happened and are likely to continue in some form, with the transparency promised us by the Academy still pending. Will the Board-elected executive committee, which steers the ship, give up the power to effectively pick and choose?

Academy insiders want the curtain pulled back on a process that seems to be controlled by little cabals of influencers and their agendas. The primary focus is on the Final Review Committees (aka the Secret Nominating Committees). Who controls them, and who do those in control place on them? It’s widely known that their composition is not secret to Board members. These powerful players know the names of the chair and members on each Secret Committee, should they wish to lobby them.

Among the Academy execs said to be integral to the process, naturally enough, is Chief Awards Officer Bill Freimuth, who was promoted to his current title in 2018, just two months after Neil Portnow’s exit was announced.

More than one committee member—who wished to remain anonymous, for fear of reprisal—told us that the players in these small rooms routinely push projects they and their friends are associated with. Artists, producers, managers and others are supposed to leave the room when work they’ve created or that they represent is discussed, but we’re told that rarely if ever happens. It’s a “you scratch my back” arrangement.

Portnow told us, in his now-infamous 2015 interview, that the committees’ choices were “based on the Top 20 of the voters’ opinions.” When the Secret Committee Members see the Top 20 vote-getters from the rank and file, the list is alphabetized and the number of votes for each omitted. So the possibility exists that the top two or three vote-getters don’t make the final ballot. Meanwhile, the Chair can call “egregious omission” and insert a name or project from outside the Top 20 for consideration.

The secrecy continues with the Secret Committee’s secret vote to produce the short secret list of final nominations. Then what happens? It’s a secret! It’s been whispered for some time, though, that highly placed execs—or a single exec—at the Academy received the list for “review” (and presumably any desired refinements) without oversight. Because of all this secrecy, at the end of the chain there’s a moment when somebody can decide who the winners are.

 

BLACKOUT TUESDAY: HOW THE MAJORS RESPONDED
(6/5a)
HARLESTON, HABTEMARIAM LAUNCH UMG TASK FORCE
(6/5a)
SONY MUSIC SETS UP $100M FUND
(6/5a)
10K OPENS FUND TO AID BLACK YOUTH
(6/5a)
BLACK MUSIC MONTH: THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED
(6/5a)
WHAT NEXT?
The biz ponders action after some reflection.
GRAMMY SPECULATION
100% guaranteed to be somewhat accurate, probably.
BLACK MUSIC MONTH
...continues.
TRUMP'S IN THE BUNKER
Just to inspect it, though.
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