An investigative report delivered to the MetroHealth System board of trustees Nov. 19 concluded that CEO Dr. Akram Boutros paid himself supplemental bonuses that he did not disclose to the board or public. 

The report, which was written by Tucker Ellis partner and former FBI agent John McCaffrey, led the board to fire Boutros this week. The hospital system released the report to the public late Friday. (You can also read the report below the story.)

“This evidence, at a minimum, establishes the Board’s right to terminate Boutros’s employment for cause, as defined in the employment agreement,” McCaffrey wrote. “And, at worse, this evidence suggests that Boutros may face potential criminal liability for Ohio ethics violations, theft in office, and other related statutes.”

Based on the report’s findings, the board accused Boutros of paying himself $1.9 million in unauthorized bonuses between 2018 and 2022. He repaid the money, plus interest, on Oct. 31, and reported the bonuses to the Ohio Ethics Commission on Nov. 1, according to the hospital system. 

After being fired, Boutros publicly accused Board Chair Vanessa Whiting of launching a retaliatory investigation against him. The ousted hospital executive has claimed in multiple interviews that he challenged the board for discussing the search for a new CEO outside of regular meetings. 

Releasing the report to the public without providing it to Dr. Boutros in advance is a continuation of the Board’s attempts to damage Dr. Boutros’ reputation.

Jason R. Bristol, an attorney for Dr. Akram Boutros

His attorney, Jason R. Bristol, told Signal Cleveland in an email Friday evening that they did not receive the report prior to today’s release, and had not had time to review it thoroughly.

“The investigation of Dr. Boutros started two months after he informed the Board that they had violated Ohio’s Sunshine Laws regarding the hiring of the new CEO,” he wrote. He added, “Releasing the report to the public without providing it to Dr. Boutros in advance is a continuation of the Board’s attempts to damage Dr. Boutros’ reputation.”

According to the Tucker Ellis report, Boutros set metrics for awarding supplemental bonuses to top executives and gave himself bonuses based on self-evaluations. Boutros tracked the bonuses on a set of spreadsheets that were shared with senior executives and the hospital’s chief financial officer. 

When the board authorized bonus payments in 2018, its resolution did not refer specifically to supplemental bonuses, the report says. Subsequent board documents do mention “supplemental incentives.”

But according to the report, “the process used to identify, designate, and weigh the metrics” for those supplemental bonuses were not disclosed to the board. The board delegated to the CEO the power to set compensation for employees and leadership, the report says.

The report also accused Boutros of concealing the supplemental bonuses from disclosure to the public and the board. 

In response to a public records request from the Plain Dealer in 2018, MetroHealth disclosed that Boutros received a bonus of $398,072. But that did not include the $400,000 supplemental bonus he received that year, the report says. 

During contract negotiations in 2021, Boutros emailed Whiting a draft compensation report that listed his total pay as $1.5 million, including a performance bonus, the Tucker Ellis report says. But Boutros had also received a supplemental bonus that year, bringing total pay up to $1.9 million, according to the Tucker Ellis report. 

Bristol, Boutros’s attorney, denied the report’s conclusion that Boutros hid the supplemental bonuses from the Plain Dealer, writing that Boutros himself would not have been involved in responding to public records requests. 

“There was no attempt to conceal information then nor is there now,” Bristol wrote.

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.