Ousted MetroHealth CEO Akram Boutros has filed suit against MetroHealth alleging that the board of trustees violated Ohio's Open Meetings Act and MetroHealth bylaws in the hiring of incoming CEO Dr. Airica Steed and its termination of Boutros this month. (A copy of the complaint can be viewed in full below.)
It only briefly addresses the reasons Metro cited for firing him — allegedly awarding himself bonuses totaling $1.9 million over a four-year period that weren't approved by or disclosed to the board — besides saying they were authorized and instead largely contends the methods by which Metro's board conducted the CEO search and launched the Boutros investigation during executive sessions violated state law.
That investigation was done by outside counsel at Tucker Ellis and alleged Boutros hid the bonuses and issued them to himself in violation of his contract with the publicly funded hospital system.
The report also says Boutros may have exposure to a felony theft in office charge.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office told Scene last week it is contact with the Ohio Ethics Commission to determine if a criminal investigation is necessary. Boutros self-reported to the OEC on Nov. 1, the day after repaying Metro the $1.9 million plus interest.
Boutros, for his part, has maintained that he did nothing wrong in collecting the bonuses and that the board's investigation of the bonuses and subsequent firing were in retaliation for Boutros allegedly discovering that the board had engaged in improper behavior with regard to the hiring of the new CEO.
"The cause-and-effect connection between the two incidents is inescapable: [Metro Board of Trustees Chair Vanessa] Whiting attempted to whip up a controversy from contemporaneously created MetroHealth business records which at all times had been available to the Board of Trustees concerning bonus payments which the Board had, in fact, approved by resolution," the complaint reads.
The suit seeks to "nullify the unlawful investigation of Dr. Boutros and to nullify Dr. Boutros’ termination for cause as The MetroHealth System’s President and Chief Executive Officer."
Whiting, in a statement issued by MetroHealth Monday evening, said: “We’re disappointed, though not surprised, that Dr. Boutros has filed a lawsuit. 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. We are confident the board acted in accord with Ohio law, but 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."