The watcher 

Former MetroHealth System CEO Dr. Akram Boutros has not lowered his profile around town since he was fired by the hospital board last November. Boutros and or his family members regularly attend MetroHealth hospital board meetings in person or virtually. They have shown up at MetroHealth community meetings, too.

This week, Boutros and his wife bought tickets to the Crain’s Cleveland Business Power Breakfast interview series featuring new MetroHealth System CEO Airica Steed. Boutros worked the room at the Union Club before taking his seat, which was stage right and near the front. Boutros has two lawsuits against the hospital, including one that argues the hospital board breached its contract with him and defamed his character. Boutros was ousted after the board said he gave himself $1.9 million in unauthorized bonuses, which he has paid back. Boutros contends he had the authority. 

Boutros is also upping his brand on his website, which highlights his accomplishments as a hospital exec. 

Health clinic money still on hold 

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration is still sitting on $2 million in federal money earmarked for Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON), which provides medical care to residents through neighborhood clinics. 

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and was approved by Cleveland City Council during Mayor Frank Jackson’s final year in office. Though Bibb hasn’t said so publicly, the administration is reluctant to hand over money to the agency because of its well-documented troubled history, which has included poor financial health, unpaid bills to city utilities, staff turnover, and a CEO who was less than forthcoming with city officials and the media. 

NEON wants the money in part to help rebuild its Hough Medical Center, which has been shuttered since it suffered a fire in May 2021. 

City Hall confirmed the money has not been released and that it is still working on an agreement with the agency on how the money would be spent and tracked. Calls to NEON CEO Willie Austin went unreturned. 

Council still in dark on FirstEnergy Stadium 

First Energy Stadium with train tracks in the foreground
First Energy Stadium Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam this week gently pushed back on speculation that they are interested in a new stadium and one possibly away from the lakefront. As Signal Cleveland pointed out weeks ago, the Haslams have been publicly saying they want to stay on the lakefront and that renovating the existing stadium, which opened in 1999, is the most practical solution for taxpayers. 

Speaking in Phoenix at the NFL owners meetings, the Haslams said they are leaning toward a renovated stadium that complements new lakefront development. 

“Cleveland would benefit tremendously from the development of the waterfront,” Jimmy Haslam told reporters. “Having the stadium down there seems to be in everybody’s best interest. So we’re committed to redoing the stadium. In all likelihood, it’s not going to have a dome.”

The Haslams, however, still have not officially shared their assessment of FirstEnergy Stadium with Cleveland City Hall. More to the point, City Council – which plays defense for taxpayers – is still in the dark, a council spokesperson said. 

New airport director on the radar

Cleveland has been interviewing finalists for a new airport director, according to Mayor Bibb’s calendar. Sources tell Signal the city has settled on a pick. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has been without a director for nearly a year. City officials said during recent budget hearings that they planned to make an offer by the end of March. 

Take Note

Cleveland Documenters had a well-deserved break this week. They will be back monitoring meetings and sharing their notes next week. Catch up on all their recent work here

Managing Editor, News (he/him)
Mark is a veteran journalist with experience in alternative media, print, digital and television news. For 19 years, he was a groundbreaking reporter and metro columnist with The Plain Dealer and Most recently, Mark spent three years as an investigative, enterprise and breaking news reporter at WKYC-TV, where his "Leading the Land" series on Cleveland's 2021 mayoral primary race earned a regional Emmy.