Ousted MetroHealth CEO says firing latest in series of retaliatory acts by board

After the late night announcement on Monday, Nov. 21, that the MetroHealth board of trustees had fired Dr. Akram Boutros, the hospital system’s president and CEO, Boutros has responded that he believes the decision is vindicative and that he plans to “take legal action.”‘

In a statement issued by his attorney, Jason R. Bristol, Boutros said the statement by the hospital’s board was “full of misinformation and outright lies.”

“The MetroHealth Board’s actions yesterday are the latest of a series of retaliatory acts against Dr. Boutros after he raised the issue of the unauthorized hiring of the new CEO,” the statement, issued Tuesday, Nov. 22, read.

The statement went on to say that Boutros “uncovered that the board members were participating in serial deliberation outside of public meetings and that the chair signed agreements and authorized payments without board approval. The chair led a retaliatory charge against him for blowing the whistle on these practices. She targeted him for receiving bonuses that were also received by all eligible employees.”

Boutros was terminated, according to a statement from MetroHealth board chair Vanessa Whiting, due to additional compensation of more than $1.9 million that Boutros approved for himself between 2018 and 2022. The additional compensation was brought to the board’s attention by outside counsel during the preparation for Boutros’ departure as CEO.

Boutros intended to retire at the end of the year. He will be succeeded by Airica Steed, currently an executive in the Sinai Chicago Health System.

In the Monday evening statement, the MetroHealth board said Boutros “established specific metrics, conducted self-assessments of his performance under those metrics, and authorized payment to himself of more than $1,900,000 in supplemental bonuses based on those self-evaluations between.”

“We know of no organization permitting its CEO to self-evaluate and determine their entitlement to an additional bonus and at what amount, as Dr. Boutros has done,” the statement read.

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Boutros repaid the hospital system more than $2.1 million on Oct. 31, which included interest on the bonus money. He reported the violation to the Ohio Ethics Commission on Nov. 1.

The “demand” for repayment, according to the statement from Boutros’ attorney, “is evidence of the board’s discriminatory treatment as he is the only employee forced to repay bonuses. The board of trustees took this action to divert attention from their own gross negligence.”

The MetroHealth budget is scheduled to have a hearing in front of the Cuyahoga County Council on Tuesday, according to the council agenda.

A spokesperson from County Executive Armond Budish said that in the wake of Boutros’ statement threatening legal action, Budish had no comment on the matter.

Dr. Nabil Chehade will serve as interim MetroHealth CEO until Steed assumes the job on Dec. 5.

This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain’s Cleveland Business.

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