Amid uproar, Smittcamp says she backs Valley Children’s CEO’s $5.1mil salary, Carmel home bonus

Fresno County’s top prosecutor, and a Valley Children’s board member, doubled down on the higher-than-normal salaries for the hospital’s CEO and executives.

Valley Children’s hospital trustee and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp broke her silence amid controversy Friday, stating that while she did not have a say in the $5.1 million compensation package and $5 million forgivable home loan given to Valley Children’s CEO Todd Suntrapak in tax year 2021, she fully supports it. 

Smittcamp, who sits on the Valley Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees, also fired back at criticism from Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld in an appearance on The Ray Appleton Show


The backstory: After receiving a total compensation package of more than $2 million in 2019, tax returns show that Suntrapak received $5.5 million in 2020 and $5.1 million in 2021. 

  • Suntrapak also received a $5 million loan in 2021 for a home purchase, which is reportedly forgivable as part of a retention bonus. Property records show that Suntrapak purchased a home in Carmel-by-the-Sea in 2022 for $6.5 million. 
  • Valley Children’s, via its third party crisis communications spokesman, said Suntrapak was paid two bonuses in one year, and that the 2023 tax return will show his total compensation in the $3 million range. 
  • Fresno City Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Garry Bredefeld questioned Smittcamp’s role in Suntrapak’s salary at a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday. 
  • Smittcamp has previously locked horns with both lawmakers.
  • Her office’s Public Integrity Unity investigated Brown Act violations against Arias and other members of the council. Her office also assessed – and dismissed – a citizen criminal complaint against Arias for assault over a COVID-era confrontation at the councilman’s front door.
  • Smittcamp has also l endorsed Bredefeld’s opponent, Steve Brandau, for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, serving as the two-term Supervisor’s top surrogate..

The big picture: Smittcamp clarified on KMJ that a compensation committee comprised of members of the Valley Children’s Healthcare Board of Trustees, a related nonprofit, is the body that determines Suntrapak’s salary. 

  • Despite this fact, Valley Children’s Hospital – the entity for which Smittcamp is a board member – is deemed to pay Suntrapak and other executives their salaries, per IRS filings.
  • Former Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson is the chairman of the healthcare board, with Univision chief Jose Elgorriaga as Vice Chair and Emily Rooney as Secretary and Treasurer. 
  • The other board members are former ABC 30 general manager Dan Adams, Jeannine Grech, Susan Hensley, Brenden Smith and former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino. 

What they’re saying: “The hospital board which I sit on does not approve the budget for the CEO’s salary, nor do they have anything to do with setting that salary,” Smittcamp said. 

  • She took a shot at Bredefeld for accusing her of betraying the trust of the taxpayers by being involved with approving Suntrapak’s compensation package. 
  • “I think that when you have a politician who takes the opportunity to bring down a hospital, to bring down a person who has such strong character like Todd Suntrapak who’s done so much for children because of political conflicts, it’s very very shameful,” Smittcamp said. 
  • But Smittcamp added that she would have fully supported giving Suntrapak the controversial compensation package that he currently has if she had a vote. 
  • “I didn’t have the opportunity to vote on Todd Suntrapak’s compensation package, but if I did, I would’ve supported the one that he has, because he is one of the most caring and kind, incredibly talented individuals that we have here in our valley,” Smittcamp said. 
  • Smittcamp said his Suntrapak’s compensation package is in-line with people of his quality.

The other side: In a statement to The Sun, Bredefeld fired back at Smittcamp:

  • “As the operator of a so-called ‘Public Integrity Unit,’ I am appalled by Ms. Smittcamp’s flagrant dismissiveness of calls for transparency and accountability at Valley Children’s Hospital. As a member of the Board of Trustees, Smitcamp had the opportunity do something about the misuse of Valley Children’s resources on excessive salaries and expensive houses. She did nothing. When these excessive salaries and benefits were exposed, Smitcamp incredibly defended them. This is completely unacceptable. How many sick children were not able to get surgery, chemotherapy or medications because the CEO was given an unjustifiable $5 million yearly compensation package and a $5 million forgiveable loan to purchase a $6.5 million vacation home in Carmel with cash, along with the total amount of over $25 million paid to his executives!
  • One way or another, Fresno residents and taxpayers have paid for these insane executive salaries and benefits. That is why we have called on a higher authority, Attorney General Rob Bonta, to investigate potential misuse of Medi-Cal funds by these non-profit hospital executives and trustees, including Ms. Smittcamp. To defend and endorse this compensation scheme while begging poor kids and families to shell out their hard earned money demonstrates just how out of touch Ms. Smittcamp is with reality and the sentiment of her constituents. If Smittcamp and her trustee colleagues will not do the right thing and put a stop to this gravy train, it’s time for people who will.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said Dan Adams was the current general manager of ABC 30.

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