Fired County Director Continues to Game the System

If you're going to get fired, do it the John Vartanian way. The former Santa Clara County department head continues to enjoy the travel rewards he stole. Now he's also getting another five-figure paycheck.

Vartanian worked as director of the Department of Child Support Services until Oct. 21, when he was fired for skimming travel rewards for personal benefit. A report in September by NBC Bay Area found that he routinely paid for his and other county employees' travel and work-related expenses with a personal credit card to rack up charge card benefits—without putting those rewards back into the system, as county policy mandates.

San Jose Inside has now learned that Vartanian also received another paycheck for the period ending last Friday. He received $11,582.26, according to records obtained through a Public Records Act request. This unusual payout comes on the heels of another San Jose Inside report, which found that due to the county's absurd complicated "merit" system, Vartanian would have first priority on receiving an attorney position with the county if one becomes available.

County Executive Jeff Smith told San Jose Inside on Friday morning that the latest payment to Vartanian was triggered by "a 20-workday notice for separation" under the Government Attorneys Association's labor contract with the county.

"Since there is no spot we could bump [Vartanian] down into, he's terminated but he still has a right to a 20-day notice," Smith said. "But instead of a notice, he gets 20 days of pay."

The last county employee to make headlines for stealing taxpayer money was ex-supervisor George Shirakawa Jr., who went to jail for crimes related to his 2008 campaign but avoided other charges by reimbursing the county for meals and travel. Vartanian has not made any restitution for siphoning travel rewards, so why is the county paying him more money rather than moving toward criminal charges?

"I agree that this is not a very satisfying reality in this situation," Smith said. "It's a result some would say is slightly absurd if not more than slightly."

Smith added that the District Attorney's office is aware of the situation, but he did not know if they're looking into it. A spokesman for the DA's office told San Jose Inside a statement would be issued later today. (UPDATE: Deputy Judy Lee, of the DA's Public Integrity Unit, provided the following statement to San Jose Inside: "We have been aware of the allegations against Mr. Vartanian since media reports brought the issue to light. We share the public's concern. We are investigating.")

Before this latest paycheck, Vartanian received a lump-sum payout of $97,556.78 that included almost $75,000 in vacation pay and more than $6,700 in sick pay.

Below is a breakdown of John Vartanian's paychecks from the county over the last six months, as well as an itemized breakdown:

John Vartanian III - Gross Earnings by Pay Day

Check Date

Total

5/16/2014

$       9,595.68

5/30/2014

$       9,595.68

6/13/2014

$       9,595.68

6/27/2014

$     11,895.68

7/11/2014

$       7,295.68

7/25/2014

$       9,595.68

8/8/2014

$       9,595.68

8/22/2014

$       9,595.68

9/5/2014

$       9,595.68

9/19/2014

$       9,595.68

10/3/2014

$       9,595.68

10/17/2014

$       9,595.68

10/31/2014

$     97,556.78

11/14/2014

$     11,582.26

Here is an itemized breakdown:

John Vartanian III - Gross Earnings by Pay Date

Check Date

Total

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

REGULAR HOURS

$       8,799.42

5/16/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

REGULAR HOURS

$       8,799.42

5/30/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

Holiday Pay Straight Time

$          879.94

REGULAR HOURS

$       7,919.48

6/13/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

Net Pay Distribution

$       2,300.00

REGULAR HOURS

$       8,799.42

6/27/2014

$     11,895.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

Holiday Pay Straight Time

$          879.94

Net Pay Distribution

$      (2,300.00)

REGULAR HOURS

$       7,919.48

7/11/2014

$       7,295.68

ADJUSTMENT TO VAC ACCRUAL

$                 -

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

REGULAR HOURS

$       8,799.42

7/25/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

REGULAR HOURS

$       8,799.42

8/8/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

REGULAR HOURS

$       8,799.42

8/22/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

REGULAR HOURS

$       8,799.42

9/5/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

Holiday Pay Straight Time

$          879.94

PD LEAVE PENDING FFD/OUTCOME

$       2,639.83

REGULAR HOURS

$       5,279.65

9/19/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

PD LEAVE PENDING FFD/OUTCOME

$       8,799.42

10/3/2014

$       9,595.68

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          611.65

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          184.61

PD LEAVE PENDING FFD/OUTCOME

$       8,799.42

10/17/2014

$       9,595.68

ANNUAL LEAVE HRS ADJ

$                 -

ANNUAL LEAVE PAYOFF

$       9,262.49

EPMC-Pension Basis Only

$          365.27

EX MGMT AUTO ALLOWANCE #1

$          110.77

PD LEAVE PENDING FFD/OUTCOME

$       5,279.65

SICK LEAVE PAYOFF

$       6,753.55

TAXABLE VALUE OF EX LIFE INS

$          990.00

VACATION PAYOFF

$     74,795.05

10/31/2014

$     97,556.78

REGULAR HOURS

$     11,582.26

11/14/2014

$     11,582.26

Total

$224,287.20

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for joining us for another exciting episode of “The Making Money Show with John Vartanian”!

    In today’s program I’ll show you how I was able to make over $200k in just 6 months from my tiny one-desk county office. We’ll start off with a popular lawyer joke:

    What’s the difference between a lawyer and a leech?

    After you die, a leech stops sucking your blood.

    Yeah, the joke’s on you, taxpaying suckers!

  2. Tell him he won a free trip, I’ll get him on a plane and leave his ass in Liberia…hahaha

  3. Who’s to say John Vartanian was fired? Perhaps he was told, “retire or be fired.”

    He was an “at will employee.” He may be collecting a hefty CalPers pension now.

    I’ve not read any articles, where the Board or Jeff Smith (Co Exec) has achnowledged that Vartanian was fired. If fired, how could he have “reversion rights” to an attorney position?

  4. Dollars to doughnuts the guy faked his vacation days. The guy’s a frequent traveler yet somehow he has $75K in unused vacation pay? Absurdly unbelievable, so why no investigation of this far more serious abuse/fraud? By comparison, the value of the points the guy earned from getting reimbursed for County expenses is likely a tiny fraction of the misstated vacation days. But since almost all government “workers” seem to pull the same scam (go visit government offices after 4PM, or on Mondays or Fridays or days before and after holidays) , it won’t be deemed worthy of investigation, let alone prosecution and imprisonment it deserves.

  5. So, is this latest scandal at The County nonfeasance or malfeasance by Jeff Smith? Why is he still County Exec? What damaging photos of whom does he have that have allowed him to keep his job after so many scandals?

  6. Seems that the county has a real problem with dealing with challenging dept heads within the Social Services Dept.
    What is the latest regarding Don Moody and Public Guardian Office. Their is a culture that runs the social services that does not serve the people as well as it appears to serve the administrators of the programs

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