Fired MetroHealth CEO factored SDOH work into own bonuses, records show

Records released in November allege that Akram Boutros, MD, who was fired as president and CEO of Cleveland-based MetroHealth System, factored social justice initiatives into the metrics he established to authorize payment to himself of more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses, The Plain Dealer reported Nov. 30.

The records are part of an investigation that took place, led by the Tucker Ellis law firm, covering 2018 to 2022. MetroHealth released the outside counsel's report on Nov. 25 and released additional documents referenced in the report on Nov. 30.

Dr. Boutros took the helm of MetroHealth in 2013 and, last year, announced his plans to retire at the end of 2022. He was fired Nov. 21 after the health system board of trustees said that between 2018 and 2022, Dr. Boutros authorized more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses for himself, without disclosure to the board. Board chair Vanessa Whiting said MetroHealth discovered the compensation issues related to Dr. Boutros while preparing for the CEO transition, and Tucker Ellis investigated.

According to the recently released records, social justice initiatives — such as efforts related to addressing the opioid epidemic, expanding hospital reach in the community, and addressing social determinants of health through the Institute for H.O.P.E. — factored heavily into the metrics he established to justify the extra payments, The Plain Dealer reported.

The payments involve annual additional performance-based variable compensation payments in 2018 to 2022 (for performance in 2017 to 2021).

One example noted in records is a $400,000 supplemental PBVC payment — the total amount of the supplemental bonus — based on his self-assessed performance in 2017.

According to The Plain Dealer, records indicate the payment was related in part to the acquisition of hospitals in the Ohio cities of Parma and Cleveland Heights, as well as the formation of a community development arm: CCH Development Corp.

Records also show Dr. Boutros gave himself 85 percent of the supplemental bonus in 2019, in part because of the Institute for H.O.P.E., the newspaper reported.

According to The Plain Dealer, Dr. Boutros wrote in documents to the board, "For all years as CEO, I have reported on the PBVC program as required by board resolution, starting in 2014. I have never been asked for person-specific metrics, payments, or other data related to the PBVC calculations or payments for other portions of the incentive program."

Dr. Boutros alleges board retaliation. He also filed a lawsuit against the board and Ms. Whiting, alleging violations of Ohio's Open Meetings Act and the board bylaws. The lawsuit asks the court to nullify Dr. Boutros' termination for cause.

To access documents related to the investigation of Dr. Boutros, click here

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