CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - MetroHealth Medical Center refuted allegations employees misused money and medicine Thursday, saying at a press conference an external investigation exonerated the hospital from allegations made in a lawsuit by a former employee.
A whistleblower lawsuit filed last month by former employee Simpson Huggins III, accused the hospital's President and Chief Executive
Officer, Akram Boutros, MD, of having the hospital pay for personal trips. It also alleged unnamed employees and employee relatives illegally received free Botox injections at MetroHealth's Pepper Pike Dermatology Clinic.
"We have been exonerated as I knew we would," Boutros said.
The suit was filed in Cuyahoga County last month by Huggins, the hospital's former director of Internal Audit, and the Chandra
Law Firm. It alleges the hospital retaliated against Huggins and fired him, after he presented his concerns about possible illegal and/or unethical behaviors to hospital officials.
According to court documents and a statement provided by Chandra, Huggins prepared a quarterly presentation to MetroHealth Medical Center's Audit Committee on December 15, 2015 and immediately faced retaliation over the report.
On Thursday, Boutros, Dr. J.B. Silvers, the chair of the hospital's audit committee, and Tom McDonald, the chair of The MetroHealth System Board
of Trustees, unequivocally denied the allegations, stating that an external auditor did an investigation and found no wrong doing.
Silvers also said that Huggins never raised any concerns about illegal or unethical behavior until after he was fired, and filed the lawsuit.
"In order to be a whistle blower you have to blow the whistle he did not," said Silvers.
Additionally, Huggins' presentation alleged that thousands of dollars in improper expenditures and reimbursements for personal expenses were accepted by President and Chief Executive Officer Akram Boutros, MD, including what appeared to be personal trips overseas.
"We're talking personal trips to Venice, Abu Dhabi, London and multiple trips to New York," says Ashlie Case Sletvold, Huggins' attorney.
Both offenses are felonies under Ohio law.
After Huggins gave his presentation to the Audit Committee, he claims he suffered retaliation within minutes of giving his presentation and was placed on unpaid administrative leave for investigation.
Huggins even claims that his flash drive containing evidence of illegal activity was seized.
The civil suit was filed with Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
An outside firm performed an investigation and according to the agency there is no truth to the allegations. According to the report, there was no retaliation against former employee.
"We have been exonerated as I knew we would," Dr. Akram Boutros, MetroHealth Medical Center CEO said.
Dr. Boutros said employees who come forward with complaints and/or concerns will not be punished.
Below is a statement from The Chandra Law Firm regarding Thursday's findings.
While MetroHealth management may have thought the best defense is a good offense, it seems like Johnny Manziel is calling their plays.
Metro should be thanking Mr. Huggins for shining a light on potential misconduct by senior officials. But instead, Metro has doubled down on its retaliation against Mr. Huggins for blowing the whistle. By firing Mr. Huggins—and expressly attributing his termination not only to his audit activities but also to submitting a public-records request for the evidence he had collected of misconduct that Metro seized when firing him—Metro has further subjected itself to liability.
MetroHealth's conduct raises the question: why are officials who were the subject of Mr. Huggins's whistleblower report directing—or even involved in—Metro's supposed "investigation"? A thorough and unbiased review will show that Mr. Huggins's misconduct concerns were founded. We will be submitting a formal request to the state auditor to investigate and amending the civil complaint to include a wrongful-termination claim.
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