CLEVELAND – The law firm engaged in investigating The MetroHealth System Board of Trustees is poised to retain an independent audit firm to thoroughly review the policies, practices, and issues surrounding the unauthorized bonuses paid to former CEO Akram Boutros.
The hiring of the audit firm was authorized in a resolution passed by The MetroHealth Board of Trustees on December 2. The auditors will release their report to MetroHealth President and CEO Dr. Airica Steed and the Tucker Ellis Law firm, which led an internal investigation of Dr. Boutros’ $1.9 million in self-authorized, unreported supplemental bonuses that led to the Board terminating his employment in late November.
“Here are the main marching orders: Investigate how this happened and why it wasn’t discovered earlier,” Dr. Steed said. “We are determined to learn from this and put appropriate controls in place to help prevent anything similar from happening again.”
The findings of the audit will be made public, Dr. Steed said.
“We look forward to sharing these findings with the public and county officials,” Dr. Steed said. “This report will help put to bed some unfortunate conjecture about the actions and motives of MetroHealth Board members and employees.
“We need to get the spotlight back where it belongs: On the 8,000 hard-working, dedicated MetroHealth employees delivering first-class health care to every patient, regardless of their ability to pay. That’s why they come to work every day, and I came to Cleveland and MetroHealth.”
Vanessa Whiting, Chair of the MetroHealth Board of Trustees, noted that the Board isn’t waiting for the audit to start making changes and improvements in its CEO compensation system. Two major steps have already been taken:
- The MetroHealth CEO’s annual bonus or incentive payment must now be the subject of a separate Board resolution. It will be audited to ensure compliance with all MetroHealth compensation policies and requirements.
- Compensation consultants, who have been hired by MetroHealth in the past to advise on rates of pay at peer health systems and compensation trends, must now verify details of the CEO’s pay and benefits with MetroHealth Human Resources rather than relying on data provided by the CEO alone.
The Tucker Ellis investigation found that between 2018 and 2022, Dr. Boutros set goals for himself, evaluated himself against those goals, and approved supplemental bonuses for himself of nearly $2 million, all without informing the Board – even though, as he acknowledged to Tucker Ellis, only the Board had the authority to evaluate and approve bonuses for the CEO.
The investigation was launched after questions about Dr. Boutros’ compensation arose during due diligence as part of the search for a new President and CEO after Dr. Boutros announced his retirement at the end of 2022.
The Board demanded immediate repayment of the supplemental bonus money. On October 31, Dr. Boutros repaid $2,104,337.11, representing the supplemental bonus money paid without approval for performance in calendar years 2017 through 2021, plus $124,003.86 in interest.
The internal investigation noted that on multiple occasions, Dr. Boutros was presented with opportunities to report his full annual compensation to the Board and compensation consultants but did not do so. Those included his negotiations with the Board about his compensation, regular compensation reviews, and public records requests between 2018 and 2022.
The audit, Dr. Steed said, will dig into those questions. “We know that we owe it to ourselves and the community we serve to undergo an independent and thorough examination to find answers,” Dr. Steed said. “That’s exactly what we intend to do.”
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