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Former MetroHealth CEO sues, alleges retaliation in dispute over supplemental bonuses

MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros speaking on the "Ideas" TV show in January 2018.
Ideastream Public Media
The lawsuit is the most recent development in a conflict between MetroHealth and its former CEO, Dr. Akram Boutros, over supplemental bonuses the hospital board says Boutros awarded himself without authorization.
Updated: November 29, 2022 at 10:47 AM EST
The chair of MetroHealth's board said she was disappointed but not surprised that former MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros had filed a lawsuit against the hospital system.

“His allegations are little more than a distraction from these fundamental facts: That he awarded himself nearly $2 million in bonuses without proper review or authorization and that he concealed those payments from MetroHealth’s trustees and the public," wrote Vanessa Whiting in a statement released Monday after news broke that Boutros had filed suit against his former employer.

In the statement, Whiting said she was confident that the board "acted in accord with Ohio law."

"No one should lose sight of the irony that someone who for five years actively cloaked his actions is trying now to recast himself as a champion of sunshine," she wrote.

The hospital board would file a response to the lawsuit in due time, she said, adding that she urged the public to read the investigative report the board released Friday.

"It speaks for itself,” she said.

MetroHealth's former CEO Dr. Akram Boutros has filed suit against the hospital system in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court.

Boutros is asking the court to nullify a recent investigation into his compensation and his termination for cause, according to a statement from his attorney.

The lawsuit is the latest development in the dispute between Boutros and the hospital system.

Last week, Boutros was fired after hospital officials said he awarded himself unauthorized bonuses from 2017 to 2022 totaling more than $1.9 million.

On Friday, the hospital released an investigative report by the law firm Tucker Ellis that 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 for "Ohio ethics violations, theft in office, and other related statutes."

Boutros denies wrongdoing, has repaid the bonuses with interest and reported the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Boutros' attorney said in a statement the hospital board violated Ohio's Open Meeting Act and the hospital's bylaws during the hiring process for Boutros' replacement and the investigation into Boutros' compensation. His attorney called the hospital's recent actions "wildly reckless, illegal, and damaging."

Boutros' attorney had previously said the firing was 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.

In the statement announcing the lawsuit, Boutros' attorney said the board "used the investigation into Dr. Boutros’ compensation as a weapon to damage Dr. Boutros' reputation and provide cover for the Board’s pattern of violating Ohio’s Sunshine Laws."

Boutros is seeking "declaratory and injunctive relief to void the actions taken by the Board in violation of the statute and to require the Board to comply with its requirements in the future," the statement said.

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