A public official fired for running a travel rewards-skimming racket could get another high-paying job with the county, albeit one less lucrative than the $235,000 annual salary he took home as head of the Department of Child Support Services.
John Vartanian was “released” from his position as department head a little more than a week ago. But his employment contract grants something called “reversionary rights,” which allows him first dibs on a six-figure-salaried attorney position, for example, should one open up. It’s a perk that lasts two years after a termination date.
Basically, if a civil servant already passed probation, is vested in a particular county job and it doesn't work out—even if fired—they can then come back to work at a lower classification. There aren’t any attorney openings right now, due to budget constraints. But if the county announces that it needs to hire a new lawyer, it may be obligated to offer the job to Vartanian, who was fired for using taxpayer money for personal benefit.
NBC Bay Area broke the story in September that Vartanian had been charging work trips on his personal credit cards to reap the bonus points and then got reimbursed. The scheme dated back to at least 2008. In the private sector, that's usually OK. But county policy requires that any rewards go back to the county to pay for future trips.
Over the years, Vartanian's rewards amounted to tens of thousands of dollars. He also integrated an unheard of practice into the administrative process, adding a line on travel forms to get at least 30 of other employees’ trips charged to his own card.
A source within the department told county officials about the scheme in 2010, but no action was taken.