Fired MetroHealth CEO files new lawsuit, alleges breach of contract

Akram Boutros, MD, who was fired as president and CEO of Cleveland-based MetroHealth, filed a new lawsuit against the health system alleging breach of contract, according to court documents shared with Becker's.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 15 in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, also lists MetroHealth board members, including Chair Vanessa Whiting and Vice Chair J.B. Silvers, as defendants. In addition to breach of contract, Dr. Boutros alleges defamation and wrongful termination, as well as civil liability for criminal acts related to retaliation and intimidation. The lawsuit alleges trustees cost Dr. Boutros $20 million in opportunities for future employment, $8 million in lost compensation and "tens of millions more in damage."

The lawsuit alleges Dr. Boutros has "lost two employment opportunities for which he was under consideration once his employment with MetroHealth was to expire, seats on the boards of three technology companies, an opportunity with an investment management company, as well as funding for a philanthropic endeavor to address gun violence in Cleveland."

"In firing Dr. Boutros, the MetroHealth board of trustees acted in bad faith. They relied on an incomplete, unauthorized investigation and made decisions in secret, violating the public's trust," Jason Bristol, an attorney at Cohen, Rosenthal & Kramer, the firm representing Dr. Boutros, said in a news release shared with Becker's. "The board's own bylaws, resolutions and meeting minutes demonstrate that Dr. Boutros acted in accordance with the authority granted to him by the board. The board's assertions to the contrary are knowingly false and are designed to destroy Dr. Boutros' reputation while protecting their own."

The lawsuit is the second filed by Dr. Boutros. A separate 31-page lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 28 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court and since has been amended, alleges violations of Ohio's Open Meetings Act and the board bylaws. It also asks the court to nullify Dr. Boutros' termination for cause.

Dr. Boutros was fired after MetroHealth board members say that between 2018 and 2022, he set goals for himself, evaluated himself against those goals and authorized more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses for himself, without disclosure to the board. Dr. Boutros, who planned to retire at the end of 2022, alleges board retaliation and denies wrongdoing. 

In his new 75-page lawsuit, Dr. Boutros argues he had authority from the board, as president and CEO, to administer MetroHealth's incentive program, including supplemental payments. 

He also details when he says he informed board members that the search process for the incoming CEO was improper and illegal, subsequent conversations he says he had with board members regarding his pay, and what he describes as an unauthorized and illegal investigation by attorney John McCaffrey.

"What should have been a community celebration and victory lap for Dr. Boutros as MetroHealth prepared for a change in leadership became a nightmare," the lawsuit states. "An impeccable reputation for leadership, stewardship, honesty and uncompromising excellence was destroyed as the defendants pursued a dubious investigation culminating in a late-night publicity campaign accusing Dr. Boutros of theft and dishonesty."

In a Dec. 15 statement shared with Becker's, the health system said: "Dr. Boutros was terminated because we learned he was paying himself almost $2 million in bonuses that had not been authorized by the MetroHealth Board. It’s that simple. To claim otherwise is to continue to smear the reputation of the very institution he claims to love and to undermine his successor.

"We are moving on with a new CEO who is committed to making the communities and the patients we serve healthier. This lawsuit is just another distraction, and we look forward to getting back to our mission and focus on the community."

Airica Steed, EdD, RN, became president and CEO of MetroHealth on Dec. 5. Meanwhile, MetroHealth announced the hiring of an independent audit firm to review policies, practices and issues related to bonuses paid to Dr. Boutros. 

Terry Monnolly, a MetroHealth board member who resigned after Dr. Boutros was fired, defended Dr. Boutros, saying in his resignation letter that it "is my belief that the board had authorized Dr. Boutros to take all actions that he took." As part of the amended first lawsuit filed by Dr. Boutros, Mr. Monnolly was dropped as a defendant.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars