Former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow has denied rape allegations made against him by the recently suspended CEO, Deborah Dugan.

Portnow, who resigned from the role in 2019, called the accusations “ludicrous and untrue” in a statement on Wednesday, Rolling Stone reports. In a complaint filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dugan alleged that Portnow raped an unnamed “foreign recording artist” after her show at Carnegie Hall in New York.

In the document, Dugan has claimed that members of the Recording Academy board notified her of the accusation in May 2019. While the artist who endured the assault isn’t named in the EEOC complaint, the document states that “a psychiatrist has confirmed that the sexual encounter between her and Mr. Portnow was likely not consensual.” Dugan has maintained that in May 2019, not everyone on the Recording Academy’s board knew about the allegation, even though the board was getting ready to vote on a proposal “to hire Mr. Portnow as a consultant for the hefty sum of $750,000.”

Portnow responded to Dugan’s filing, saying her complaint “is filled with inaccurate, false, and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me.”  

“The allegations of rape are ludicrous and untrue,” Portnow said. “The suggestion that there was [a rape] 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 directors’ 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 has also denied that he asked Dugan to compensate him for consulting services. “Consistent with my pledge to ensure that there would be the appropriate amount of time for the Academy to organize and execute an efficient and transparent transition, I determined far in advance of the Grammy telecast in 2018 that I would not seek a further extension of my contract scheduled to end July 31, 2019,” the former CEO of the Recording Academy writes. “I informed the board chair and executive committee of my decision. At no time did I ever demand a $750,000 consulting fee.”

Dugan was hired to help rebuild the Grammy Awards, which has wrestled with racial and gender diversity issues. Dugan was accused of misconduct and placed on administrative leave only 10 days before the Grammys. She has since accused the Recording Academy of discrimination and sexual harassment. The rape allegation against Portnow is one of many serious accusations in the filing, which underscored the “egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing … and voting irregularities” that dominate the Recording Academy, “all made possible by the ‘boys’ club’ mentality and approach to governance.”

Additionally, Dugan also alleged that the Recording Academy's General Counsel Joel Katz sexually harassed her. During a dinner, before she was appointed to the Academy, Dugan has claimed that Katz called her “baby,” complimented her appearance multiple times, and proposed that they “spend time together” before trying to kiss her. “Ms. Dugan quickly turned away, repulsed,” the complaint says.

However, Katz has categorically denied Dugan's claims. His lawyer Howard Weitzman issued a statement, saying that Dugan’s portrayal of the dinner was “false.”

Dugan's attorneys say her complaint is what prompted the Academy to place her on administrative leave; however, a source told the New York Times that the CEO was removed from her post because an assistant had complained about her “bullying management style.”

Read Neil Portnow's statement in full below.

This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me.  Here is what is true:

The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue. 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 Directors’ 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.

I fulfilled the terms and responsibilities of my contract during my 17 years as President and ultimately Chief Executive Officer.  Consistent with my pledge to ensure that there would be the appropriate amount of time for the Academy to organize and execute an efficient and transparent transition, I determined far in advance of the Grammy telecast in 2018 that I would not seek a further extension of my contract scheduled to end July 31, 2019.  I informed the then Board Chair and Executive Committee of my decision. At no time did I ever demand a $750,000 consulting fee. 

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.  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.

The repetition of these falsehoods against me, and others referenced within the EEOC filing are a diversionary tactic and will not convert them to truth.  I will vigorously defend all false claims made against me in this document.

I would like to wish all the 2020 nominees and those in our creative community well and sincerely hope that they will celebrate their art and accomplishments this weekend at the Grammy Awards telecast and during the many Grammy Week events ahead.

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