- Cleveland-based MetroHealth System has fired longtime CEO Akram Boutros less than two months before his planned retirement, after an internal probe revealed Boutros authorized more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses to himself without disclosing the payments to the board.
- Board chair Vanessa Whiting said in a statement posted to MetroHealth’s website that the board had fired Boutros on Monday, after receiving findings of a probe into the CEO’s compensation. The probe found that Boutros approved the additional $1.9 million in compensation for himself between 2018 and 2022, without the board’s knowledge.
- Boutros has served as chief executive of four-hospital MetroHealth since 2013. Last year, he announced his plans to retire at the end of this year. In a statement from his lawyer, Boutros denied all allegations of embezzlement, and said his firing was “the latest of a series of retaliatory acts” against him after he raised concerns over the “unauthorized hiring of the new CEO.”
Boutros said he plans to take legal action, calling the statement released by the board “full of misinformation and outright lies.” According to his lawyer, Boutros uncovered that MetroHealth’s 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 attorney Jason Bristol said in a statement provided to multiple local Cleveland outlets.
“The ‘demand’ for repayment 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,” Bristol continued.
MetroHealth said it discovered the compensation issues while preparing for the CEO transition, which sparked an internal investigation led by a law firm.
Boutros admitted to establishing certain metrics for his performance, self-assessing under those metrics and then authorizing the supplemental bonuses to himself without disclosing the practice to the board, despite his employment contract making clear the board sets his compensation.
Boutros repaid more than $2.1 million to MetroHealth in October, representing the payments made without the board’s approval, along with roughly $124,000 in interest, according to the system’s release.
Along with ousting Boutros, MetroHealth’s board of trustees has put CEO spending and hiring limitations in place through December, and said that Boutros reported himself to the Ohio Ethics Commission earlier this month.
MetroHealth’s internal investigation is ongoing, and it plans to cooperate with any investigating authorities, according to the release.
“We have taken these actions mindfully and deliberately but with sadness and disappointment,” Whiting said. “We all recognize the wonderful things Dr. Boutros has done for our hospital and for the community. However, 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.”
Boutros will be replaced by Airica Steed, current EVP and COO of Sinai Chicago Health System, starting Dec. 5. In the interim, MetroHealth EVP and Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Nabil Chehade will serve as interim CEO.
During his tenure at MetroHealth, Boutros increased the system’s annual revenue from $785 million to more than $1.5 billion. He also opened a renovated main campus for MetroHealth just last month.