9 Cook County Health executives given robust raises without documented justification, watchdog says

Nine high-ranking employees of Chicago-based Cook County Health System were given robust pay raises above an amount set in a business rule, according to the Chicago Tribune, which cited a recent watchdog report. 

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard found that the pay raises exceeded a plan set out in a business rule that called for raises of 0 percent, 4 percent or 6 percent for the various positions.

In addition, Mr. Blanchard found that Cook County Health System gave the employees the raises without first properly justifying them in the paperwork as required. Raises were given to employees in January, but the paperwork wasn't submitted until June, the inspector general found.

One executive named in the report, Cook County Health's CFO Ekerete Akpan, was given a $60,000 pay raise this year, which lifted his salary by 25 percent. He now earns $300,000 annually. The other eight senior-level employees received salary increases between 9.2 and 9.4 percent.  

After investigating the salary bumps, the Office of the Independent Inspector General recommended to revoke the pay increases above 6 percent. If they are justified, the system could re-initiate them, the inspector general said.

Health system officials rejected the inspector general's suggestion, according to the report. 

Jeff McCutchan, an attorney from Cook County Health told the Tribune that administrators followed all the right steps to obtain the approvals, but "mistakenly" turned in the paperwork late. He also justified the salary hikes, saying the pay increases were part of a board strategy to recruit and retain the best leadership to the hospital.

Editor's Note: This article was updated Oct. 23 at 9:54 a.m.

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