Attorneys for fired MetroHealth CEO allege board retaliation

Attorneys for Akram Boutros, MD, are alleging retaliation by the board of trustees at Cleveland-based MetroHealth System after the board fired Dr. Boutros as health system president and CEO on Nov. 21.

A statement issued by Cohen, Rosenthal and Kramer, which was shared with Becker's, said the board's actions Nov. 21 are among the retaliatory acts against Dr. Boutros after he blew the whistle on what he deemed the unauthorized hiring of the new CEO.

"He uncovered that the board members were participating in serial deliberation outside of public meetings and that Vanessa Whiting, the board chair, signed agreements and authorized payments [of] hundreds of thousands of dollars without board approval," attorneys for Dr. Boutros said.

The attorneys also contend Ms. Whiting led retaliation against Dr. Boutros and "targeted him for receiving bonuses that were received by all eligible employees." 

Additionally, the attorneys allege Dr. Boutros is the only employee forced to repay bonuses and that the board acted "to divert attention from their own gross negligence."

The statement from the attorneys is in response to a statement Ms. Whiting released Nov. 21.

Ms. Whiting's statement said Dr. Boutros, by his own admission, conducted self-assessments of his performance under specific metrics he established, and authorized payment to himself of more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses based on those self-evaluations between 2018 and 2022.  

The statement also said that:

  • Dr. Boutros did not receive authority from the board to self-evaluate his performance against metrics never disclosed to the board, and then authorize supplemental bonus payments for himself in amounts never disclosed to the board.
  • Dr. Boutros' employment contract stipulates that the board sets Dr. Boutros' compensation.
  • Dr. Boutros repaid the unapproved supplemental bonus money, with interest, on Oct. 31.
  • Dr. Boutros notified the board at a public meeting that he had self-reported to the Ohio Ethics Commission on Nov. 1.

Attorneys for Dr. Boutros allege the statement released by the board "is full of misinformation and outright lies. Dr. Boutros will take legal action." Their statement also said Dr. Boutros "never omitted nor failed to report his full compensation to the board."

A statement released Nov. 22 by Ms. Whiting stated the board "acts and continues to act within its authority, complying with all applicable state and federal laws. The allegations being made are false and a distraction from the facts we have previously communicated about the issue at hand."

Dr. Boutros took the helm of MetroHealth in 2013 and, last year, announced his plans to retire at the end of 2022. In September, MetroHealth named Airica Steed, EdD, RN, its next president and CEO. Dr. Steed, who is executive vice president and system COO of Sinai Chicago Health System, will take the helm of MetroHealth Dec. 5, according to Ms. Whiting's Nov. 21 statement. Meanwhile, Nabil Chehade, MD, executive vice president and chief clinical transformation officer at MetroHealth, will assume the CEO's duties on an interim basis.

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