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Former MetroHealth CEO may face criminal charges, hospital investigation says

MetroHealth sign in front of the MetroHealth main campus in Cleveland, Ohio
Tim Harrison
Ideastream Public Media
The chair of the hospital's board says it initiated an investigation after issues arose as it prepared to replace Boutros who had announced he would retire at the end of 2022.

The now-fired MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros could face criminal charges for Ohio ethics violations and theft in office, according to an investigative reportreleased Friday by MetroHealth.

The hospital board initiated an investigation, led by the law firm Tucker Ellis, after issues arose as it prepared to replace Boutros who had announced he would retire at the end of 2022, according to Vanessa Whiting, chair of the MetroHealth System board.

Boutros was fired last week after the hospital system said he granted himself more than $1.9 million in unauthorized bonuses between 2018 and 2022.

The investigation found that the hospital board had the right to fire Boutros for cause under their employment agreement and suggested that the former CEO could face criminal charges, according to the report.

"This evidence suggests that Boutros may face potential criminal liability for Ohio ethics violations, theft in office, and other related statutes," the report says.

Boutros, who has paid back the money with interest, has denied wrongdoing and reported the payments to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Boutros' attorney said the firing is one in a series of retaliatory actions taken by the board against Boutros after he blew the whistle on improper practices in the board's hiring of his replacement as CEO, according to a statement released last week.

The investigative report, however, points to two examples it says show Boutros concealed the extra bonuses from the board and the public even when it would have been appropriate to disclose his full compensation.

In April 2018, Boutros received a $400,000 supplemental performance bonus in addition to his base salary and a board-approved performance bonus.

Days earlier, a Plain Dealer reporter had asked for information on the compensation for the hospital's 14 senior executives, including Boutros, according to the report.

When Boutros responded about two weeks later, he did not include information about the $400,000 supplemental performance bonus he received.

Further, Boutros did not disclose the extra bonuses he had received to the board or the consultants hired to help negotiate his future pay, according to the report.

Dr. Akram Boutros

Only the board is authorized to approve compensation for the CEO, including bonuses, according to the report.

MetroHealth is known as Cuyahoga County's safety net hospital. In recent years, the system's reputation has grown. In June, the hospital was one of 66 hospitals nationwide that received "A" ratings in equity, care value and patient outcomes, according to theLown Institute, a think tank that studies hospital systems.

Boutros became the CEO in 2013 and has overseen the transformation of the hospital's main campus on W. 25th street in Cleveland, including the opening of the Glick Centerearlier this month.

Boutros announced last year that he would retire at the end of 2022. The hospital board announced it had hired Dr. Airica Steed to replace Boutros.

Dr. Nabil Chehade will serve as interim CEO until Steed, most recently executive vice president and chief operating officer of Sinai Chicago Health System and president of Mount Sinai and Sinai Children’s Hospital, takes over at MetroHealth on Dec. 5.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.
Mike McIntyre is the executive editor of Ideastream Public Media.