Craig Levein "seems to be getting away with murder" as Hearts' director of football, according to former Tynecastle goalkeeper Neil Alexander.
Levein oversaw the appointment of Ian Cathro, who was sacked as head coach on Tuesday.
And Alexander believes the former Scotland manager's role in the club's recent struggles has been overlooked.
"I think what everyone's forgetting is Craig Levein's got to be held accountable," he told BBC Sportsound.
"He's the one that's hiring and firing, and he seems to be getting away with murder. The Hearts fans now seem to be clocking on to it. Where's this mismanagement coming from? Ultimately, it's Craig Levein.
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"Someone has got to be making these decisions, and Craig Levein seems to be making them and getting away with them. He seems to be able to hire and fire without any consequences. Craig Levein will probably hire the next manager, and if he's not a success, they'll just fire him."
Alexander experienced two seasons under Hearts' director of football model between 2014 and 2016, with head coach Robbie Neilson guiding the Gorgie club to the Scottish Championship title, then a third-place finish on their return to the top tier.
Now with Livingston, 40-year-old Alexander revealed on BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound that Levein was a regular presence around the squad during his time there.
"Craig was always around," he said. "His role of director of football was he oversaw everything. He was always in the office, always watching training, always in Robbie's ear helping him, advising him, but Robbie maintained it was his team and I do believe that.
"Half-time and full-time he was in the dressing room, and he would have a word with the manager before he went in at half-time and full-time.
"Craig is a big influence in Scottish football and a big influence on Hearts and has his say, but ultimately he's not the manager, and if he wants to hire a manager, let them manage."
Hearts owner Ann Budge said on Friday the club has been "swamped with applications" for the vacant head coach position, and have "the luxury of time" to appoint Cathro's successor while coaches Jon Daly, Austin MacPhee and Liam Fox take interim charge under Levein.
"Hearts are renowned for bringing young managers through with the help of Craig Levein in the background," Alexander added.
"The managers that are linked with the job - Paul Hartley, Steven Pressley, experienced managers - they won't want that distraction, they'll want to come in and do it their own way."
Alexander feels Cathro could have been offered a "demotion" to an assistant's role, rather than being sacked, after Hearts suffered a shock exit from the League Cup following the group stage.
"You never like to see managers get sacked; there's just such a high expectancy with the Hearts fans, the board, the success they had in the period Robbie Neilson was there," Alexander said.
"I just think he needed help. I think firing him was a bit extreme; he is a young, upcoming coach and I've spoken to a lot of the players and they all rave about his coaching on a day-to-day basis on the training pitch.
"I think man-management was the problem. I think he needed help. I think he needed a number one. It would be a bit disrespectful to make him manager then demote him to number two, but I think he needed a more experienced man to come in, take the match-day team talk and the preparation, let him do his Monday-Friday stuff."