MetroHealth wants former CEO's firing claims dismissed

The MetroHealth System in Cleveland and its board of trustees have filed a motion to dismiss retaliation and intimidation claims from its former president and CEO, Law360 reported March 20. Akram Boutros, MD, was fired after allegedly authorizing more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses for himself without notifying the board.

The March 16 filing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, which was shared with Becker's, is in response to allegations of retaliation and intimidation from Dr. Boutros related to the firing.

The health system and board argue that the retaliation and intimidation claims omit the statutory language that requires that the claims be related to civil and/or criminal proceedings.

"Rather, the complaint alleges that [Dr. Boutros] was retaliated against when he discharged his duties as a public servant and alerted [MetroHealth] 'to illegality in the hiring of MetroHealth's incoming CEO,'" the March 16 filing reads. "Moreover, [the complaint] fails to allege any duty that [Dr. Boutros] was supposedly carrying out when he encountered [the health system's] alleged intimidation. Counts eight and nine fail because the alleged retaliation and intimidation are entirely unrelated to a civil or criminal proceeding."

Dr. Boutros was fired in November after law firm Tucker Ellis conducted an investigation into the compensation issue. 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. 

The audit commissioned by MetroHealth found, among other things, that Dr. Boutros concealed bonuses from the board. Jason Bristol, an attorney for Dr. Boutros, has disputed findings in the audit, saying the MetroHealth board approved the bonus program and knew the CEO was included in it. 

"We remain confident that Dr. Boutros will be vindicated," Mr. Bristol said in a statement shared with Becker's on March 21. "The facts remain that the MetroHealth board of trustees approved the bonus program. They knew the CEO was included in the program. He was contractually entitled to participate. They approved the bonus payments for all 200 eligible employees every year. And, the bonuses were awarded only after a robust assessment, based on board-approved formulas and metrics, was conducted. All of this information, including Dr. Boutros's bonus payments, are, and have always been, a matter of public record."

A MetroHealth spokesperson told Becker's: "Our response to the lawsuit as well as the findings of the recent independent audit speak for themselves. MetroHealth continues to focus on caring for the patients and communities we serve."

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 new MetroHealth CEO Airica Steed, EdD, RN. Dr. Boutros filed a separate lawsuit against the health system in December alleging breach of contract. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Steed announced this month that she is suspending supplemental and one-time bonus programs that led to the firing of Dr. Boutros.

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