Former MetroHealth CEO hid unauthorized bonuses, audit says

A third-party audit commissioned by Cleveland-based MetroHealth found its former CEO concealed bonuses from the board. Dr. Boutros immediately disputed the findings through his attorney.

MetroHealth released the findings March 3 after the organization's board of trustees fired former President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD, for allegedly authorizing more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses for himself without disclosure to the board. Dr. Boutros alleges board retaliation and denies wrongdoing. 

MetroHealth fired Dr. Boutros in November after law firm Tucker Ellis conducted an initial investigation. Tucker Ellis retained national accounting firm BDO to perform the recently released audit, which reviewed policies, practices and issues related to bonuses paid to Dr. Boutros. 

Among the findings from the audit, which was shared with Becker's, are:

  • Dr. Boutros included himself as an eligible employee in the supplemental bonus pool without board approval. 
  • Dr. Boutros performed a self-evaluation of his supplemental bonus pool achievements and calculated his own supplemental bonus payouts. 
  • Dr. Boutros failed to disclose his supplemental bonuses to the board and outside parties.
  • The CFO failed to implement segregation of duty controls related to the CEO  supplemental bonus pool compensation.

Jason Bristol, an attorney for Dr. Boutros, said in a statement shared with Becker's that Dr. Boutros' bonuses were approved by the board.

"BDO was hired by the Tucker-Ellis law firm, the same law firm that produced the biased and incomplete initial report," the statement said. "There is nothing independent about this audit report. The report continues to deny allegations that we could definitively prove to be true today: The MetroHealth board of trustees approved the bonus program. They knew the CEO was included in the program. They approved the bonus payments for all eligible employees every year. The bonuses were awarded only after a robust assessment." 

The audit also provided recommendations to MetroHealth, including to "conduct training to ensure all system employees and [board] members understand their role in an effective internal control environment." BDO also recommended the health system review and assess its organizational informational reporting and update the related board reporting.

The health system said in a news release that it has already taken actions to strengthen policies and processes and improve organizational oversight. This includes requiring that CEO bonus compensation be the subject of a separate board resolution. The compensation will also be audited, and compensation consultants are now required to verify details of the CEO's pay and benefits with MetroHealth human resources, the health system said. 

MetroHealth expects that its board will consider additional recommendations included in the audit during its next meeting.  

Meanwhile, Dr. Boutros has filed multiple lawsuits since his firing. He filed a lawsuit Nov. 28 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, alleging violations of Ohio's Open Meetings Act and the board bylaws. Dr. Boutros also alleges board retaliation and accuses the MetroHealth board of violating the law in its hiring of the health system's current president and CEO, Airica Steed, EdD, RN. 

Dr. Boutros filed a separate lawsuit against the health system in December alleging breach of contract.

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