CLEVELAND — Officials with the MetroHealth System issued a statement Thursday refuting allegations made in a lawsuit by a former nurse who was allegedly fired for calling out problems at the county jail.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, Gary Brack, says he was wrongfully terminated last year after responding to questions at a county council meeting where he highlighted problems at the jail— issues that would be brought to light months later when a report by the U.S. Marshals service exposed a myriad of problems up to and including the death of multiple inmates.
The lawsuit alleges that Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish; former director of Cuyahoga County Corrections Ken Mills; MetroHealth; Cuyahoga County and others violated Brack’s civil rights and free speech.
Last May, Brack spoke to county officials about his concerns with the jail. The day after Brack’s testimony, the lawsuit states that Budish went to MetroHealth’s CEO, Akram Boutros, and demanded that Brack be taken out of the jail. The lawsuit states that Brack was reprimanded by MetroHealth for speaking beyond his designated role.
MetroHealth officials drafted a memorandum listing Brack’s alleged violations, the suit states, to assure Budish that his demand for Brack’s removal had been met. Brack was then fired.
The hospital has pushed back against the lawsuit filed by Brack and his attorney Subodh Chandra. MetroHealth has called the lawsuit “unfounded and defamatory.”
The hospital said that it is and has always been “committed to ensuring the health and safety of the men and women in the Cuyahoga County Jail.”
“The lawsuit will sort out the legal issues, but MetroHealth will not sit back and permit Mr. Chandra’s unfounded and defamatory statements to be left unaddressed. While many of his assertions are patently false, Mr. Chandra disregards facts and instead chooses to smear and grossly mislead. Unfortunately, we have seen this from Mr. Chandra before.”
MetroHealth called several items presented in the lawsuit as “reckless mischaracterizations” made by Bracks’ attorneys.
Specifically, MetroHealth stated that:
- Mr. Chandra suggested that MetroHealth’s contract with the County precluded the County from demanding the removal of MetroHealth staff from the jail, and he went on to quote language from a contract. However, the contract he quoted was the new contract that was put into place just this month. And the language he quoted was specifically added by MetroHealth under the new agreement to prevent this exact type of situation from happening again.
- Mr. Chandra repeatedly stated that MetroHealth is driven by profits and money in providing care in the jail. Mr. Chandra has no knowledge of any facts regarding whether the contract is profitable. And, in fact, it is not. MetroHealth has never profited from its jail contracts.
- Mr. Chandra suggested that MetroHealth violated Mr. Brack’s First Amendment rights. He misconstrues normal preparations for an official presentation to County Council into something nefarious. We recognize and respect everyone’s First Amendment rights. As MetroHealth conveyed to Mr. Brack at the time, we had no issue with the substance of his statements to County Council. Indeed, consistent with the issues Mr. Brack raised at the Council hearing, MetroHealth had been advocating for changes in jail policies and procedures to enhance detainee and staff safety for more than a year prior to the Council meeting.