MusiCares Announces Independent Investigation Into Person of the Year, Harassment Allegations

The Recording Academy's non-profit has hired law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP to look into a fired employee's claims.

The Recording Academy's MusiCares nonprofit has announced the hiring of a third party independent investigation into allegations made last month in an open letter from a former employee. 

Law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP will conduct the investigation, MusiCares chairman Michael McDonald told board members in an email Monday (June 4) that was obtained by Billboard. "With any charity, trust is earned and can never be taken for granted," he wrote. "Needless to say, we welcome their findings and will act on their recommendations."

Last month former MusiCares vp Dana Tomarken accused Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow of steering money away from MusiCares in order to fund a deficit created by this year's Grammy telecast in New York City. Tomarken, who was fired on April 16 after 25 years at the Academy, also alleged that Portnow was behind a deal to hold the MusiCares Person of the Year event at Radio City Music Hall instead of Brooklyn's Barclays Center, which resulted in a $4 million drop in fundraising from $5 million in 2017 down to $1 million this year.

As well, she claimed to be the victim of workplace harassment that ultimately led to her firing over a $2,500 bill for a MusiCares auction item that she was late in paying. 

A week later, Portnow announced he would be stepping down from his post when his contract expires next year. 

In his letter McDonald told board members MusiCares is taking Tomarken's allegations "very seriously." 

"As you know, MusiCares provides a range of critical support for music people in need," McDonald wrote. "With each passing year, our goal is to do more, to give more, and to serve a greater number of people. Our mission remains singular: to help music people in need."

He continued to outline some of MusiCares' recent successes: providing $5.9 million to 7,900 members of the music industry in the last fiscal year, marking the organization's largest number of clients served and dollars distributed in a single year; the expectation to provide $6.3 million to nearly 9,000 music people this year; and for the fourth year in a row MusiCares' four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the independent charity watchdog's highest mark for financial health, accountability and transparency. 

McDonald also said that, although he could only share so much on the topic "due to legal and privacy issues," Tomarken's firing came after "a full investigation."

"As a beneficiary of MusiCares’ services and someone for whom integrity is paramount, it’s been tough to see the integrity of an organization that has done so much good come into question as a result of allegations made by a single individual," he concluded. "While we work to investigate and address these allegations, please rest assured that MusiCares will continue to provide the best level of service possible to support our community -- that will not change."