CLEVELAND (WJW) — The MetroHealth system is hiring an independent auditor in the latest chapter in the legal saga between the hospital’s board of trustees and fired CEO. 

The board had accused Dr. Akram Boutros of giving himself nearly $2 million in unapproved bonuses, then he filed a lawsuit against the hospital.

Thursday, the hospital’s board of trustees released a statement that it had authorized hiring an independent audit firm last week.

They say the law firm that conducted the investigation into Dr. Boutros’ actions will retain an outside company to review the policies, practices and issues surrounding the bonuses paid to the former CEO.

“I felt very blindsided,” Dr. Akram Boutros said, when he spoke to FOX 8 shortly after the hospital fired him last month, less than two months before he was set to retire.

The board accused him of authorizing, for himself, more than $1.9 million in bonuses, based on self-evaluations between 2018 and 2022 without informing board members. They say only the trustee board has the authority to evaluate and approve bonuses for the CEO.

“The board had to approve the amount of distribution to all eligible employees, including all senior executives, including me,” Boutros said at the time.

In Thursday’s statement, new president and CEO Dr. Airica Steed said, “Here are the main marching orders: Investigate how this happened and why it wasn’t discovered earlier. We are determined to learn from this and put appropriate controls in place to help prevent anything similar from happening again.”

She went on to say, “We look forward to sharing these findings with the public and with county officials. This report will help put to bed some of the unfortunate conjecture about the actions and motives of MetroHealth Board members and employees.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Dr. Boutros told FOX 8 last month. “I’ve continued to follow all the rules and regulations. I’ve devoted myself to this organization for ten years. I think it’s because I challenged them about what they were doing right and wrong.”

On Oct. 31, Dr. Boutros repaid MetroHealth more than $2.1 million, which included interest on the bonuses.

Dr. Boutros filed a lawsuit against MetroHealth’s board of trustees, accusing the board of misconduct, holding improper meetings and making unauthorized payments while hiring a new CEO. The board calls the lawsuit a distraction.

“We know that we owe it to ourselves and the community we serve to undergo an independent and thorough examination to find answers. That’s exactly what we intend to do,” Dr. Steed said.

The chair of the board of trustees says the hospital is already making changes, including mandating a separate board resolution to approve a CEO’s annual bonus.

The independent auditors will release their report to MetroHealth’s president and CEO, Dr. Steed, as well as the Tucker Ellis law firm, which led the internal investigation.

They say the findings will be made public.