State auditor investigating MetroHealth bonuses
Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber has launched an investigation into former MetroHealth System CEO Dr. Akram Boutros’ bonuses.
“We have opened an ongoing special investigation into the bonuses based on media reports,” Marc Kovac, a spokesman for Faber, told Signal Cleveland.
MetroHealth System’s board of trustees fired Boutros in November for awarding himself $1.9 million in bonuses that the board says were not authorized.
Boutros repaid the money while he disputed the board’s view of the bonuses. He has denied all the board’s claims and has filed two lawsuits against the board, including one seeking $8 million in lost compensation and severance and $20 million more for damages to his reputation.
The board has hired an independent auditor to review its bonus and compensation policies.
Signal Cleveland also asked Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley if his office is investigating the hospital’s claim that Boutros took the bonuses without authorization. The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that it reached out to the auditor’s office.
“After reviewing the information with the Ohio Ethics Commission, our office determined that additional investigation is necessary,” the statement reads. “We have reached out to the State of Ohio’s Auditor’s Office for further investigation. When our office receives their final report, we will review for any potential criminal charges.”
Jason Bristol, Boutros’ attorney, downplayed the attention.
“It is normal procedure for agencies such as a county prosecutor’s office, ethics commission, and auditor’s office to collaborate by using the expertise of their respective office to assist another agency,” he said. “We are looking forward to the conclusion of the agencies’ work and to reviewing their findings.”
Cleveland readies for possible strike
Teamsters Local 507, which represents some city workers, is asking suburban communities not to lend snowplow drivers to Cleveland if members strike.
The Teamsters say Cleveland City Hall has asked suburban mayors to lend workers, according to a recent letter from the Teamsters to the mayor of Bedford.
“It has come to our attention that the City of Cleveland’s representatives have reached out to surrounding communities to seek commitments in the event that our members strike,” reads the Dec. 19 letter obtained by Signal Cleveland.
The letter warns that if Bedford assists Cleveland, the union will tell Bedford residents that the suburb has “picked sides” and is risking its own ability to deliver services to residents.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration didn’t respond directly to a question about whether it’s seeking outside help.
“We remain focused on a contract agreement that is fair and equitable and maintaining city services for the residents of Cleveland,” the city said in a statement.
Teamsters Local 507 and other unions have rejected the city’s three-year contract offer because it includes smaller raises than those given to safety forces and others.
Teamsters met on Nov. 22 with a “fact finder,” whose job is to listen to both sides and review their materials. The fact finder’s recommendation is supposed to be released Jan. 18.
If either side rejects it, the unions could strike.
The collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX and indictment of founder Sam Bankman-Fried has turned a spotlight on the Congressional candidates he boosted in the 2022 midterms.
Among those under the glare is U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown, a Warrensville Heights Democrat. Her campaign committee received $2,900 from Bankman-Fried last year (the maximum contribution an individual is allowed to make). What’s more, the super PAC he funded, Protect Our Future, spent $1 million on ads boosting her candidacy.
Brown told Signal Cleveland recently that she plans to give away the $2,900 contribution she received, but she’s waiting for direction from the courts as Bankman-Fried’s case moves forward.
“Whatever the courts decide as it relates to the funding, that is what we are going to do,” Brown said.
Whether the courts will offer any guidance remains to be seen. Some Democratic groups told the New York Times they’ve put FTX-linked donations aside for possible restitution to people who lost money on the company’s crypto deals.
Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, the chair of the powerful banking committee, wants to crack down on the unregulated world of crypto.
That other police board
A seat has opened up on Cleveland’s nine-member Civilian Police Review Board, giving Mayor Bibb another opportunity to shape police oversight.
Roslyn Quarto resigned in the middle of December. She was appointed by Mayor Frank Jackson and has served since 2016.
Not to be confused with the 13-member Community Police Commission, the CPRB reviews citizen complaints about Cleveland police officers and makes disciplinary recommendations to leadership.
The voter-passed Issue 24 gives the CPRB more power and grants the Community Police Commission the final say over discipline.
“With all the upcoming changes, I believe this is the best time for new blood on the board,” Quarto wrote in a brief resignation letter.
The mayor has already named two new board members and reappointed a third. Bibb’s press secretary tells Signal Cleveland that the city will soon issue a call for applicants to fill the vacant seat.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Signal Cleveland’s Olivera Perkins has an extended interview with Dan O’Malley, executive secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, Northeast Ohio’s largest labor organization. He talks about Starbucks strikes, the state of organizing, and other worker issues.