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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Fired Cuyahoga County Jail Nursing Director Sues Budish, MetroHealth, Alleging Retaliation for Comments in Front of County Council

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2019 at 9:37 AM

  • Gary Brack speaking at council, Cuyahoga County YouTube

Gary Brack, the former nursing director at the Cuyahoga County Jail who was fired last year after speaking out at a county council meeting about medical care issues at the facility, has sued Cuyahoga County, County Executive Armond Budish, former jail boss Ken Mills, MetroHealth CEO Akram Boutros and MetroHealth Chief of Staff Jane Platten alleging his dismissal was a retaliation for his comments.

Budish and former Chief of Staff Earl Leiken visited Akrom Boutros personally the day after Brack's comments and directed Boutros to fire Brack, which he did.

Brack is represented by the Chandra Law Firm.

The crux of the suit contends:

"Nurse Brack’s protected speech cost him his job, but the example made of him harms the public. Criminal indictments have picked off a string of County administrators, but jail employees remain afraid to explain how the Cuyahoga County jail became one of the worst in the nation, because—after Nurse Brack’s ousting—they fear retaliation.

"Nurse Brack brings this lawsuit so that others need not risk their livelihoods to exercise their First Amendment rights, or risk their lives while matters of public concern remain suppressed. The choice is perverse and unconstitutional, for 'the First Amendment should never countenance the gamble that informed scrutiny of the workings of government will be left to wither on the vine' by 'those who bring, often at some personal risk, its operations into public view.

"To protect the nurses, officers, and inmates for whom he still cares, cure a culture of retaliation that hides malfeasance from the public, and vindicate his constitutional rights, Nurse Brack brings this civil-rights action for First Amendment retaliation and prior restraint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, civil liability for criminal acts, and conspiracy to violate his constitutional and
statutory rights."

In preparation for the appearance in front of council, the suit details, MetroHealth's Jane Platten had informed Brack he was not to criticize the County as to protect the hospital system's relationship.

When directly asked by council members about the nursing staff shortage, pay rates, general medical care and how Ken Mills factored into the problems, Brack spoke honestly, however.

"The Sheriff approved these positions, but the positions never went through," Brack said. "There was comment by Director Mills that talent acquisition is the problem. It's not. We have a nursing crisis at the jail, and while pay is a factor, the relationship we have with Ken Mills... MetroHealth is constantly left out of the plan. There was no knowledge of the plan in Euclid or Bedford. There seems to be a passive aggressive behavior, because what [Mills] tells us doesn't pan out. The hiring requests for Euclid haven't been fixed. There are six vacancies in the main jail. And while the new hires are onboarding for May 29, there's really still no staff for Bedford or Euclid. We're not competitive with our rates, and the numbers we're allowed to hire seem to change."

When MetroHealth agreed to Budish's request to remove Brack from the nursing supervisor position, it did so because his comments had damaged the hospital's relationships with the county, according discipline records cited in the suit. This despite, the Chandra Law Firm says, his speaking for the public good. Metro, meanwhile, argued his feelings should have been expressed through different — aka private and official —  channels.

Budish, at that time, had stood by Ken Mills, who has since resigned and been indicted, as the jail boss carried out the executive's directive to cut costs at the facility, to the detriment of medical care and inmate well-being, the suit says.

Nine inmates have died in the time since Brack made his concerns public.

Read the suit for yourself below.

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