The Cook County Health and Hospital System is being urged by the county’s inspector general to take disciplinary action against one of its top doctors and two other employees following a Better Government Association/NBC5 investigation reported last November.

In that report, the BGA and NBC5 revealed that a veteran county orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Kapotas, was paid almost $90,000 in taxpayer money last summer even though he was no longer on staff. Or as the Cook County IG later put it, he “continued to receive a full time county salary while actively employed elsewhere.” The “elsewhere” is in central Indiana where Kapotas now is in private practice.

“I don’t go looking at my checking account,” Kapotas told the BGA last fall. “I do direct deposit. I don’t have a boat. I don’t have three wives. . . . There’s no intent to defraud the county.”

Kapotas paid back the money the week the story aired on television.

Now, in the wake of the BGA/NBC5 probe, the IG released a report calling the payments to Kapotas “improper” and saying there was “negligence” on the part of three hospital employees–including Dr. Richard Keen, Kapotas’ supervisor at Stroger Hospital. In addition, the IG recommended “disciplinary action” and “policy training” so this type of incident doesn’t happen again.

But now the original tipster on the story has been placed on paid leave.

Gerald Cotton, a hospital employee who first told the BGA about the extra paychecks Kapotas was pocketing, was sent a letter suspending him from his job and banning him from the hospital. The letter alleged Cotton threatened another hospital worker, which Cotton denies.

Cotton has spent most of his adult life as an orthopedic technician in the Cook County hospital system. He was not quoted by name in the BGA/NBC report, but believes hospital officials determined he was the leak, so now he is willing to speak publicly.

Cotton described his discipline as retaliation, saying hospital bosses “don’t want the corruption in the county exposed.”

A hospital spokeswoman confirmed Cotton was suspended in recent months, but would not provide details due to internal protocols.

The spokeswoman added, “The health system recognizes retaliatory conduct is unlawful.” The hospital system is still reviewing the recommendations by the IG.

Cotton has filed a grievance against the hospital, alleging harassment.