California system CEO confronts pay criticism

Madera, Calif.-based Valley Children's Healthcare President and CEO Todd Suntrapak is responding to criticism of compensation packages for himself and other top executives. 

Earlier this month, Valley Children's released an interview with Mr. Suntrapak to staff in which the CEO addresses the issue, The San Joaquin Valley Sun reported June 11. 

"There are no discussions with me about my compensation other than the board [Compensation] Committee, notifying me what it's going to be after they've gone through a very regimented process, utilizing at least one outside consultant that's nationally renowned for doing that work, and sometimes two, and then it's presented to me," Mr. Suntrapak said in the video. "In 2012, when I was presented with my first contract as the CEO of Valley Children's, I signed the contract. And at that time, I was paid at the 11th percentile. And in fact, my compensation didn't reach the 50th percentile until 2018."

Mr. Suntrapak added: "Every parent that brings their child to Valley Children's, what they care about is, are we going to deliver the world-class care that we provide every single day and without interruption and without distraction."

The interview, posted on Vimeo, was distributed to staff prior to the release of an exclusive interview Mr. Suntrapak did with ABC affiliate KFSN, according to the Sun. Both interviews follow scrutiny around his compensation, which initially surfaced in March. 

Tax documents available on ProPublica's Nonprofit Explorer showed Mr. Suntrapak received nearly $2.1 million in total compensation in 2019, compared to more than $5.5 million in 2020.

Regarding the increase, he told KFSN, "I'll start by saying I'm really proud of this team. And I'm proud of the work that we've done, and I'm proud of the work that I've done as CEO and leader."

He added, "I don't choose what my compensation is. Our board determines what the appropriate compensation is for the CEO, and they rely upon external experts to advise them and to do quite a bit of analysis, then they make a determination."

According to KFSN, tax documents also showed Mr. Suntrapak earned $5.1 million in total compensation in 2021, including $1.7 million in base pay and bonus money. Documents also show he received a $5 million loan "for residence as a retention incentive in lieu of other compensation," which he used to purchase a $6.5 million home in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

He told KFSN: "There is a portion of the loan that is forgiven every year, which I am taxed on showed up on my W2s, and the term is 10 years. So, again, the intent of the board, based on the assessment of my work, was wanting to retain me for that period of time. This was a tool that was available to them."

In his interview with KFSN, he also addressed criticism from Fresno City Council members Miguel Arias and Garry Bredefeld, who have spoken out about executive compensation overall at Valley Children's. They asked California Attorney General Rob Bonta to look into Valley Children's spending of state Medicaid funds, particularly as it relates to executive compensation.

"We know that Valley Children's is a jewel," Mr. Bredefeld said in March, according to KFSN. "But what they have done has violated public trust, and there needs to be accountability and transparency."

Mr. Suntrapak told the news station this month: "We certainly have commercial insurance that we charge for the services that we provide, as well as investment income. I am not aware that we have ever pinned any type of employee compensation to any type of revenue stream."

Mr. Suntrapak's full interview with KFSN can be found here. His interview with Valley Children's, in which he also addresses initiatives designed to take the system into the next 70 years and the organization's financial picture, among other topics, can be found here.  

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