UPDATED: A letter to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees by former MusiCares VP Dana Tomarken accuses President and Chairman Neil Portnow of redirecting funds intended for the charity to cover Academy shortfalls and furthering his own agenda rather than doing charitable work.
Former MusiCares VP Dana Tomarken has accused Recording Academy Head Neil Portnow of steering money away from the charity to fund a deficit from this year’s Grammy telecast and brokering a deal to hold the charity's Person of the Year Award at a more expensive venue that netted the charity just $1 million in 2018 versus $5 million the year before.
“I received a call from Irving Azoff. Neil and the Madison Square Garden Company,” Tomarken said in the letter. “Irving informed me, had early on in NY Grammy negotiations agreed that the Person of the Year tribute would be held at Radio City Music Hall, a Madison Square Garden Company venue. Neither I nor anyone on the MusiCares staff was ever notified of those discussions or agreement, and as a result, we were forced to walk away from a huge benefit to MusiCares: Barclays’ generous financial commitment and their venue.
“The agreement with Radio City Music Hall was at least twice as expensive as the Barclays Center offer,” she reportedly wrote, “and that does not factor in any additional support we might have been able to secure from Barclays sponsors.”
“... Oak View had agreed to sell Grammy Week packages that included tickets to the telecast as well as Person of the Year, designed to raise $1.5 million for MusiCares,” she wrote. “However, just before the 2017 Christmas holiday, I discovered … that Neil had subsequently approved dropping MusiCares from the package revenue stream in favor of funding the telecast deficit.”
Tomarken was fired in April after 25 years with the Recording Academy. She is alleges wrongful termination, claiming that she and coworker Dorit Kalev were fired over late payment for a $2,500 MusiCares auction item. The firing , she said, came “after a painful year of trying to protect MusiCares from being exploited,(and) enduring ongoing instances of workplace abuse and harassment” from two male coworkers named in the letter obtained by Variety.
MusiCares has provided $48 million in emergency assistance to members of the music community since its founding in 1989.
In January, Portnow came under fire for tone deaf comments about the Grammy's glaring gender gap, with more than 13,000 signing a petition demanding his resignation. Portnow and the Recording Academy are responsible for the annual awards ceremony."
In response to Tomarken, the Recording Academy issued this statement:
“While we will not address point by point the letter from Ms. Tomarken, who was recently terminated following a thorough investigation, we respond as follows:
(1) The decision as to the venue for this year’s Person of the Year event was made after careful consideration of all options, and input from all appropriate individuals. MusiCares’ interests were not sacrificed in favor of the interests of the Recording Academy.
(2) As Ms. Tomarken well knows, neither MusiCares nor the Recording Academy ever intended to reduce, nor will they reduce, the amount of financial support made available to MusiCares clients in need. MusiCares continues to provide the highest level of service to people in need across our music community, as evidenced by the four-star rating it earned, once again, in February from Charity Navigator—the highest rating the independent charity watchdog organization awards. Simply, our commitment and support will not be diminished.
(3) Ms. Tomarken did not raise the issues relating to alleged “workplace abuse and harassment” until after her employment was terminated. An independent investigation of these allegations was immediately commenced. Based on the outcome of that investigation, appropriate action (if any) will be taken. Both the Recording Academy and MusiCares take all allegations of this kind seriously.”