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Bredefeld, Smittcamp Debate the Salary of Valley Children's CEO
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 weeks ago on
March 27, 2024

Garry Bredefeld (left) and Lisa Smittcamp debated hospital exec salaries on KMJ radio. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would be proud.

On Wednesday morning, in a radio confrontation, Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp debated the salary of Valley Children’s Hospital CEO Todd Suntrapak.

Their raucous square-off followed a hospital news release defending Suntrapak’s compensation.

Last week, GV Wire reporter Edward Smith revealed that the hospital paid Suntrapak a total compensation package of $5 million in 2021. He also received a $5 million forgivable loan for a home in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Many in the community were outraged, including Bredefeld.

Bredefeld, who is running for a Fresno County Board of Supervisor seat in November, held a March 20 news conference blasting the hospital, and blasting Smittcamp — who serves on a VCH board. Smittcamp said her board did not control Suntrapak’s salary, but said it was justified.

Smittcamp endorsed the supervisor Bredefeld wants to defeat — incumbent Steve Brandau. She brought up that point during the debate as a reason why Bredefeld attacked her.

“I encourage you to continue to do so,” said a defiant Bredefeld.

Insults and Arguments Flow

They appeared on “The Ray Appleton Show” on KMJ (580 AM/105.9 FM). Neither elected official changed the other’s mind in one hour.

Both said the hospital has cared for their respective children. Both agreed about the high level of care provided by VCH. Virtually everything else was disputed.

Smittcamp started the fireworks with her opening lines.

“If Garry would do his homework and ask questions before he starts off in the media, we could avoid a lot of these conflicts that he creates,” Smittcamp said.

The debate did not get much better from there. Smittcamp called out Bredefeld several times for inaccurate public statements about her role, and who oversees hospital salaries.

Smittcamp serves on a 16-member Valley Children’s Hospital/Medical Group Board of Trustees, which does not set the salary. That is the responsibility of the separate nine-member Valley Children’s Healthcare Board of Trustees.

“We have a firestarter here in Garry, who apparently wants to start a fire so he can look like he’s the one that’s putting it out. It’s preposterous. It’s irresponsible. And it’s infuriating to me,” Smittcamp said.

She said Bredefeld should concentrate on the city’s $37 million budget deficit instead of “destroying reputations.”

The DA also called Bredefeld a liar and characterized him as irresponsible.

The district attorney also said she does not have the authority over VCH because it is located in Madera County, and a high salary for Suntrapak is not a crime.

“There is nothing egregious going on at the hospital,” Smittcamp said.

Bredefeld should contact the IRS if he suspects wrongdoing, Smittcamp said, not her office, not Assemblyman Jim Patterson, nor Attorney General Rob Bonta.

Bredefeld: Not Backing Down

Bredefeld would not budge on his viewpoint that Suntrapak is overpaid — “outrageous” he said — and the hospital’s trust with the public is shattered.

“The CEO Todd Suntrapak is being enriched, along with 27 executives on the back of sick, poor children. And you defend that. That’s the truth,” Bredefeld said.

Smittcamp does bear responsibility, Bredefeld argued.

“She wants it both ways, she says. On the one hand, she wasn’t responsible. She didn’t vote for (the salary). But then she comes on your show and defends the indefensible.

“The fact is, Lisa was elected to be the chief prosecutor of criminals in Fresno County, but she’s become the chief defender of cronyism at Valley Children’s, the chief defender of the good old boy club, and the Board of Supervisors. And she’s the most political DA in Fresno County history. She’s diminished herself and her entire office,” Bredefeld said.

He refuted that he asked for Smittcamp’s Public Integrity Unit to investigate — he said fellow councilmember Miguel Arias made that claim. And, Bredefeld said he never alleged a crime.

Bredefeld also said the salaries of other Valley Children’s executives were too high.

“Her arguments are just strawman arguments to distract from the fact this is unjustified. And that’s why they’re losing donors. And that’s why people are not happy about what’s going on,” Bredefeld said.

Hospital Responds to Criticism of CEO’s Pay

Earlier in the morning, the hospital issued a lengthy news releasepushing back against misinformation and setting the record straight regarding recent criticisms of executive compensation.”

“Valley Children’s has always been dedicated to transparency and accountability. We want to make sure that our community understands the truth and recognizes our unwavering commitment to exceptional patient care and financial stability to ensure Valley Children’s is here for the next 70 years,” Valley Children’s Healthcare Board of Trustees Chair Michael Hanson said in the statement

VCH’s transparency includes declining several GV Wire requests for interviews with Hanson and Suntrapak.

Hanson made the case that media accounts about Suntrapak’s $5 million compensation were inaccurate. An accounting technique reported the bonus for two years in a single calendar year, the chair said.

Suntrapak’s base salary since 2020 is $1.7 million “in line with other health system CEOs with similar levels of responsibility,” Hanson said.

Smittcamp made the same point on KMJ.

The hospital also sent a letter to the Fresno City Council.

“They finally came out of their bunker. Congratulations,” Bredefeld said of the VCH statement.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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