Critics say the hospital's CEO Richard Roodman pulled the cord on a golden parachute, even though he has yet to retire.
The retirement payment, which is separate from his pension, has been in Roodman's contract for nearly two years. But when a recent auditor's report showed the CEO collected the $1.7 million without retiring, the criticism came quick.
Critics are not questioning whether Roodman's move was legal; they only wonder whether it was appropriate.
"I think it's a giving of public money to someone. He hasn't retired, therefore he hasn't earned it," said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn.
In her criticism Roach cited trouble from Roodman's past when he spent taxpayer dollars on a political campaign, and landed the largest election fine in state history.
But hospital board members say Roodman earned this perk.
"He met the legal requirements of it. It was his money when he turned 60, and we let him have it," said board president Don Jacobson.
Board members claim Roodman's performance deserves a top salary, and the payment is not excessive.
"The fact is CEOs are paid that kind of money," said Jacobson said.
Property taxes from several local cities including Renton, Tukwila and Covington fund part of the tab for Valley Medical Center.
Roodman made more than $900,000 last year -- a figure Roach says is well above the salary of the CEO of Harborview Medical Center, a level-one trauma center.
Roach says the bigger problem might be the sweetheart deals the hospital's board is ready to make and have taxpayers cover the cost.
"The really sad thing about this is that you have a board of commissioners who did not exercise their fiduciary responsibility to the voters," she said.
Roodman could not be reached for comment.