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Valley Children's Sends Third Party to KMJ to Explain Suntrapak's Salary, Benefits
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By Edward Smith
Published 1 month ago on
March 20, 2024

Valley Children's Hospital contracted with a third-party communications firm to talk about board decisions that resulted in high rates of executive pay. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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After stories came out about executive pay rates far above most other children’s or local hospitals, Valley Children’s felt the need to respond on air.

“The Central Valley has built one of the nation’s premier children’s hospitals. In doing so, we have recruited and retained some of America’s best executives, caregivers, and team members. As such, the quality of our care and the fiscal management of our organization is — and continues to be — best in class.” Michael Hanson, chair, Valley Children’s Healthcare Board of Trustees

But it wasn’t CEO Todd Suntrapak who provided context for the large bonuses that elevated his IRS-reported salary to $5.2 million in 2021.

Instead, the hospital sent its third-party communications consultant to appear on KMJ’s Broeske & Musson Tuesday morning.

And, Vintage Foster, CEO of AMF Media Group, who spoke on behalf of Valley Children’s, agreed that the matter of a CEO earning in excess of $5 million was a question that needed to be asked.

“Why would a CEO make that kind of money?” Foster said. “It’s the right question.”

On Wednesday, the hospital provided a statement to GV Wire from Michael Hanson, who is the chair of the Valley Children’s Healthcare Board of Trustees.

“The Central Valley has built one of the nation’s premier children’s hospitals,” Hanson said. “In doing so, we have recruited and retained some of America’s best executives, caregivers, and team members. As such, the quality of our care and the fiscal management of our organization is — and continues to be — best in class.”

Hanson is the former superintendent of Fresno Unified School District.

Assemblymember Patterson: State Has No Authority Over Non-Profit Salaries

Assemblyman Jim Patterson issued a statement Wednesday about the community’s discussion of salaries paid to Suntrap and other Valley Children’s executives.

“Despite calls to audit Valley Children’s Hospital, the state has no authority to demand information on the executive salary and compensation of a private, non-profit,” Patterson said. “Any audit would only focus on programs and funding the Hospital receives from the state.”

Valley Children’s Provides Context Behind Executive Pay

Valley Children’s reported on its 2021 Form 990 that it had compensated Suntrapak $5.2 million in 2021. The year before, it reported $5.5 million for Suntrapak.

Foster said that the high rate of pay came after their accounting firm, Moss Adams, recommended changing the timing of Suntrapak’s $800,000 bonus. Instead of the bonus being awarded during Valley Children’s fiscal year, it was changed to the calendar year. That resulted in the bonus being doubly reported. Next year, the bonus won’t appear on the IRS report.

But the increase goes beyond a reporting anomaly.

A third-party compensation consulting firm told the hospital and its board that its executive retirement package was “under the bar,” Foster said during his radio appearance.

To make up for that, the hospital paid Suntrapak $1.8 million in retirement benefits, something Foster said was not “cash in his pocket.”

In total, the hospital paid out $5.1 million in bonuses to its executives, Foster said in a previous interview with GV Wire.

In 2021, the hospital also reported giving Suntrapak a $5 million home loan, forgivable if he stays as CEO.

“The loan is part of a retention mechanism,” said Zara Arboleda, director of communications and public relations with Valley Children’s. “We know Todd receives recruitment calls. We know he is one of the best in the country.

“Working with the consultant, we designed a loan that is forgivable over time. But it is based on him staying with Valley Children’s. If he were to leave, he would be responsible for paying it back.”

What Pay Your CEO So Much?

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital —perhaps the best-known children’s hospital in the world —paid its CEO, James Downing, $1.5 million in 2021. And, Craig Castro, the CEO of Fresno-based Community Health System, received $1.8 million in total pay.

Foster justified Suntrapak’s compensation package by describing him as a “very important piece of the puzzle” in Valley Children’s success.

Coming out of COVID-19 in 2021, the hospital’s net assets increased by $210 million. But when asked about how the hospital increased its assets, Foster had no answer. Nor did he have an answer that explained Valley Children’s growth since Suntrapak became CEO in 2012.

From 2012 to 2022, Valley Children’s went from $824.3 million in assets to $2 billion in assets.

When pressed about what Suntrapak had done to warrant the high pay, Foster said that under the CEO’s tenure, he had improved net assets, employee satisfaction, and patient outcomes.

Neither Fresno County nor Madera County gave Valley Children’s Hospital American Rescue Plan money.

Questions posed to Valley Children’s about whether it received COVID-19 federal grant funding were not returned before publication of this story.

Ongoing requests by GV Wire to talk to hospital administration have been punted to Foster or Arboleda.

(GV Wire’s David Taub contributed to this story.)

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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