Fired MetroHealth System CEO Dr. Akram Boutros is suing the hospital’s board of trustees, which ousted him last week.
The lawsuit, filed Monday with the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, accuses the board of breaking Ohio open meeting laws in hiring a law firm to investigate his compensation and in deciding to fire him. The suit asks a judge to nullify Boutros’s firing.
“Ohio law holds as a nullity any action taken by a public body in violation of the Open Meeting Law,” Boutros’s attorneys wrote. “This rule invalidates the findings of the unlawful investigation of Dr. Boutros undertaken by the attorneys the MetroHealth Board improperly and secretly hired. It also nullifies the Board’s unlawful termination of Dr. Boutros’ employment.”
The board sacked Boutros on Nov. 21, alleging that he left trustees in the dark about $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses he awarded to himself between 2018 and 2022. Boutros repaid the money with interest.
Boutros has accused Board Chair Vanessa Whiting of retaliating against him after he confronted trustees for allegedly discussing the search for a new CEO outside of public meetings.
The ousted CEO’s lawyers wrote that they will file a second lawsuit against the board over the alleged retaliation.
Whiting said in a statement Monday evening that the board is “disappointed, though not surprised” by Boutros’s 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,” she said.
Whiting said a formal response to the lawsuit is forthcoming and urged the public to read the board’s report on Boutros’ actions conducted by the law firm Tucker Ellis.
“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,” she said.
This story was updated to include a response from MetroHealth System’s board of trustees.