Cuyahoga County Jail whistleblower lawsuit says county ‘has a culture of retaliation’

Updated: May. 22, 2019 at 10:27 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A former nurse with MetroHealth who said he was fired for speaking up at a public hearing about the practices at the Cuyahoga County Jail has filed suit.

Former nurse sues Cuyahoga County claiming 'culture of retaliation' at jail

Posted by Cleveland 19 News on Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The lawsuit filed by Gary Brack, a registered nurse with over 20 years experience, names county executive Armond Budish, former Director of Corrections Ken Mills, Cuyahoga County and the MetroHealth System among others as defendants.

Brack’s testimony at that hearing in May 2018 dealt in large part with the behavior of Mills, who resigned abruptly in November 2018 and has since been indicted along with other county administrators as part of the ongoing corruption probe.

The resignation of Mills, who was hired in 2014 despite having no experience working in jail operations, came days before the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) released a damning report detailing the horrific conditions at the jail.

Mills faces felony charges of tampering with records and telecommunications fraud, four misdemeanor counts of falsification and two misdemeanor counts of obstructing official business. The indictment also accused him of lying to USMS investigators.

Per the lawsuit:

“Nurse Brack’s testimony exposed Mills’s persistent interference with and disdain for vital matters of inmate health and nurse safety that threatened lives under Nurse Brack’s care. His testimony was explicitly personal and remarkably restrained, as his colleagues emphasized when they erupted in protest at his removal.”

The lawsuit alleges Budish was “outraged” by Brack’s testimony and within a day actively sought to retaliate against him “for exposing his lieutenant’s malfeasance and embarrassing his administration.”

Brack’s attorney said that Budish and Earl Leiken, his chief of staff, drove to MetroHealth the next day to meet with their CEO regarding his client’s termination from the jail.

Per the lawsuit:

“MetroHealth immediately complied. Then, after summoning Nurse Brack to a meeting, castigating him for speaking beyond his designated role, and drafting a memorandum of Nurse Brack’s supposed ‘violations’ to assure Budish that his unconstitutional demand for Nurse Brack’s removal had been met, MetroHealth terminated Nurse Brack.”

They allege that MetroHealth CEO Akram Boutros “confirmed Budish’s demand and Nurse Brack’s removal by email to Budish, hoping to preserve [their] profitable jail contract.”

Despite the indictments and ongoing investigations, the lawsuit alleges jail employees remain in fear of reprisal should they speak up about the conditions at the jail, which is considered among the worst in the nation.

Brack and his attorney, Subodh Chandra, have have a press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

19 News will live stream that event.

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