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  • atlanta mainstream

    Grady board’s chair doctored his contract, ex-CEO says

     

    By MAGGIE LEE

    <p>Pamela Stephenson</p>Otis Story

    Ex-Grady Hospital CEO Otis Story claims state Rep. Pamela Stephenson secretly rewrote his contract so she could take his $600,000-a-year job and cut him out of his severance pay.

    In newly filed court papers, Story contends that Stephenson deleted three pages from his employment agreement and inserted a six-month probationary clause without his knowledge. Stephenson negotiated and signed the deal in May 2007 on behalf of the hospital board, which she chaired.

    The missing three-page “term sheet,” Story said, guaranteed him $1.8 million –- three years’ pay -– if he were fired without cause. Instead, he says, he collected two months of severance pay.

    The severance guarantee was among several “critical protections I wanted to include should the authority, a notoriously political and fickle body, attempt to terminate me,” Story said in paperwork filed in Fulton County Superior Court. The case is scheduled for trial next month.

    Story’s attorneys argue Stephenson deceived other Grady board members by removing the term sheet and failing to tell them about the severance pay, which made firing him appear to be a risk-free proposition.

    Court filings contain two versions of Story’s contract – one providing for three years’ severance pay, and another with more modest severance terms and six months of probation. Story claims Stephenson created the latter document later and substituted the signature page of the deal he signed.

    In addition to the severance package, Story is seeking an unspecified amount of punitive damages from Stephenson. He claims her actions were part of a larger strategy to get his job for herself.

    Stephenson became Grady’s CEO on Jan. 28, 2008 – the same day Story was fired – with a two-year contract paying an annual salary of $600,000. She was replaced in September when a new non-profit board, created by Atlanta’s business community, took over the hospital’s operations. She asked Grady to compensate her for the unpaid portion of her contract – about $750,000 — but settled for a $325,000 buyout.

    She continues to serve as chairman of the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, which owns Grady, and as vice chairman of the non-profit board that runs it.

    Story says Grady fired him without warning, denying him due process provisions. Both versions of his contract promise that he would be notified of any serious complaints about his performance and given 30 days to respond with an attorney present.

    Stephenson has filed a counterclaim for slander. She says Story has portrayed her as a sexually available woman whom he could have slept with if he wanted, and that he told people she fired him because he rejected her advances. Story denies those claims.

    Story’s termination letter charges he made unilateral decisions without the approval of the hospital authority’s board. Those decisions included closing satellite clinics, signing a plan for an expansion at Hughes Spalding children’s hospital, and offering an applicant an $800,000-a-year job as chief medical officer.

    Story’s attorney countered that Stephenson and the board had been well aware of most of those actions. He acknowledged that he inadvertently signed the Hughes Spalding document, thinking it was something else, but was not willfully defying the Grady board when he did so.

     

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