Janz to Valley Children’s lawyers: back off or face Bar complaints

A paper war of words between Valley Children’s and members of the Fresno City Council is forcing a reckoning with the lawmakers’ chief lawyer.

Valley Children’s Hospital responded to a letter from Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias on Wednesday, saying that Healthcare Board Chair Michael Hanson never received a letter reported on by The Sun

That led to more drama at Thursday’s City Council meeting, with Arias calling the hospital’s response “sloppy” and “emotional.” 


The backstory: Last week, Hanson sent a letter to the city council claiming all criticism over the high compensation paid out to CEO Todd Suntrapak and other executives is based on misinformation. 

  • In response, Arias mailed a letter through the U.S. Postal Service to the hospital, writing that Valley Children’s has “placed profits over the health of our city residents, especially our poorest children.” 
  • The Sun obtained a copy of that letter and published an article on it on April 2. 

Valley Children’s response: Valley Children’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer William Chaltraw sent a letter to Arias and the City Council on Wednesday evening through email and the U.S. Postal Service. 

  • Chaltraw said Hanson had not received any direct correspondence from you, adding, “instead of your communicating through a questionable ‘media outlet,’ I am asking that you show the courtesy – as an officeholder on the public payroll – to immediately provide my office with a copy.” 
  • Chaltraw told Arias that his “continued aspersions and mischaracterizations” about the hospital are nothing but a “political smear campaign” and a breach of ethical conduct for elected officials. 
  • Chaltraw also told Arias to stop spreading “unfounded allegations about our institution” if he wants Valley Children’s to succeed and thrive. 

Arias fires back: During Thursday’s council meeting, Arias said he received the email from Chaltraw on Wednesday evening. 

  • “I found the letter to be sloppy, emotional and quite frankly beneath that of a chief legal counsel for such a large and prestigious institution,” Arias said. 
  • Arias also pointed out that Chaltraw did not spell Councilman Luis Chavez’s name correctly, referring to Chavez as “Louis” in the correspondence. 
  • “I hope Valley Children’s gets their act together instead of sending letters that gentrify our identities,” Arias said. 
  • City Attorney Andrew Janz said he is aware of the letter, which was not sent to him. 
  • “I strongly urge that the hospital’s legal team immediately cease and desist contacting city officials regarding legal matters without including the Fresno City Attorney’s Office in those discussions,” Janz said. “If these communications continue without my knowledge, my office will not hesitate to report this conduct to the California State Bar.” 
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