The dispute between MetroHealth and its former CEO Dr. Akram Boutros has escalated again.
Boutros on Monday, November 28, filed lawsuit in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas detailing what it says are “multiple violations of the Ohio Public Meetings Act” and the MetroHealth System Board of Trustees’ bylaws by the board and its chairman, Vanessa L. Whiting.
Boutros’ attorney, Jason Bristol of Cohen Rosenthal & Kramer LLP, said in a statement that the lawsuit “is the result of an investigation that clearly demonstrates the wanton disregard of the Ohio Public Assembly Act and the board’s bylaws … as in the process of hiring for a new system CEO health care and the so-called investigation into the compensation of Dr. Boutros.
Bristol said in a statement that the suit “seeks a declaratory and injunctive relief to nullify actions taken by the board in violation of the bylaws and require the board to comply with its demands in the future. In particular, we ask the court to annul the illegal investigation. Dr. Boutros and annul the dismissal of Dr. Boutros for good cause” as CEO.
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MetroHealth’s board on Monday, November 21, announced Boutros’ dismissal and said he had paid himself more than $1.9 million in unauthorized bonuses over four years. The health care system said it found improper bonuses in the transition from Boutros, who intended to leave the CEO position at the end of the year, to new CEO Irika Steed, a Chicago health veteran.
Boutros has denied the allegations and said the board had approved all bonuses. He said the system is retaliating against him for reporting what he characterizes as a council violation of state sunlight laws.
Whiting, through MetroHealth’s media relations department, issued the following statement:
“We are disappointed but not surprised that Dr. Boutros has filed a lawsuit. His claims are nothing more than a distraction from the following fundamental facts: that he awarded himself nearly $2 million in bonuses without proper review or authorization, and that he hid these payments from MetroHealth trustees and the public.
“We are confident that the board acted in accordance with Ohio law, but no one should lose sight of the irony that a man who actively covered up his actions for five years is now trying to transform himself into a protector of sunlight.
“We will file our response in due course, but encourage everyone to read Tucker Ellis report this was the result of an investigation we launched into the actions of Dr. Boutros. It speaks for itself.”
Boutros’ lawsuit follows MetroHealth’s release on Friday, Nov. 25. report it details the health system’s case against its former CEO.
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The report is based on an investigation by the law firm Tucker Ellis and focuses on “additional variable performance-based compensation” or additional PBVC – bonuses available to top managers if the system achieves certain financial goals.
It stated that “neither the Board of Directors consultants nor the National Compensation Consultants of the MetroHealth System were aware of any additional PBVC compensation paid to Boutros, and Boutros appears to have been a key person working with compensation consultant Sullivan Kotter to data preparation, which were subsequently used by both compensation consultants”. The report added that Boutros “has not otherwise acknowledged or disclosed his receipt of additional PBVC bonus compensation at other times when such disclosure would be appropriate, including during contract negotiations.”
Cuyahoga County Attorney Michael O’Malley, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Attorney’s office, only confirmed on Monday that the office had contacted the Ohio Ethics Commission about the matter, but declined to comment further.
A MetroHealth report by John McCaffrey, a Tucker Ellis partner, stated: “The evidence presented here suggests that Boutros may have been involved in an act of theft in the line of duty, in violation of RC 2921.41, and possibly tampering with, in violation of RC 2921.13.”
This story first appeared in Crane’s Cleveland business.