Fired County Director Could Get Hired Back as an Attorney

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.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. California Penal Code section 504. Every officer of this state, or of any county, city, city and county, or other municipal corporation or subdivision thereof, and every deputy, clerk, or servant of that officer, and every officer,director, trustee, clerk, servant, or agent of any association,society, or corporation (public or private), who fraudulently appropriates to any use or purpose not in the due and lawful execution of that person’s trust, any property in his or her possession or under his or her control by virtue of that trust, or secretes it with a fraudulent intent to appropriate it to that use or purpose, is guilty of embezzlement.

    California Penal Code section 514. Every person guilty of embezzlement is punishable in the manner prescribed for theft of property of the value or kind embezzled; and where the property embezzled is an evidence of debt or right of action, the sum due upon it or secured to be paid by it must be taken as its value; if the embezzlement or defalcation is of the public funds of the United States, or of this state, or of any county or municipality within this state, the offense is a felony, and is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison; and the person so convicted is ineligible thereafter to any office of honor, trust, or profit in this state.

  2. District Attorney Jeff Rosen should be publically queried and held accountable as to his position on the issues of Embezzlement and “Self-Dealing” by a Corporate Officer who is also an Officer to the Court.

    Or, is the District Attorney just too busy making television appearances supporting Proposition 47 where the Felony of Embezzlement may be reduced to a Misdemeanor Property Crime and as such is unworthy of his fiduciary attentions.

    David S. Wall

    • Jeff Rosen is busy going to free Giants games and parties as a reward for his handling of the De Anza Baseball Team Rape. “I swear I will avenge this child if elected”, Then “Take the settlement kid and shut up”. Does anybody know why that prosecution never took place? Has anybody read what they all did to that girl? Does anyone realize there was a Stadium deal teetering on the fence and one of the rape ring leaders was related to a Major League Baseball Team Exec? That’s why no arrests and the girl was found guilty for being a drunk minor in a house with adult males. Jeff Rosen couldn’t prosecute a confessed rock. I personally spoke with him while he was running and asked him “Are you really going to prosecute after your elected”. His answer was “I don’t want to discuss it”. I said “You have to if you want my support? Like a little child he said “No I don’t”. well he kissed off fund raising concerts and financial backing from a lot of people. It didn’t matter because I found out he and Dolores Carr worked it out that he would run against her and if people didn’t vote for her he would win and never prosecute her for her actions in office. Notice he hasn’t.

        • Well, you don’t know about the De Anza Baseball team Rapes. You don’t know about SJPD stopping illegals and towing their cars for no license and holding them for thirty days and charging them $3000.00 a pop to give them back even when a licensed driver in the cars offered to drive them home. You didn’t hear about SJPD charging the School Districts for off duty cops who never performed security. How about a cop fired for obstruction of justice and rehired and then who molests little boys and is allowed to resign so he come back later when the boys are intimidated into not testifying because 90% of the DA’s Investigators are SJPD. retired. How about the cop who just recently raped a woman on duty. How about the SJPD officer who embezzled $54,000 in bogus overtime and the $502,000,000.00 new Glass and recycled concrete City Hall that should have cost $135,000,000.00. That’s just a smiggen of what you don’t know as true. Your not just an ordinary people, your a person who doesn’t read or inquire or ask questions and you certainly can’t vote with ear plugs, blinders and tape over your mouth !!!!!

  3. “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.” Surely that does not apply to someone fired for cause????
    The State Bar might be interested in this affair. After a criminal conviction, Mr. Vartanian would be automatically disbarred. Even without a conviction, he could be suspended from law practice, like Ben Field, who now runs the South Bay Labor Council.

  4. John Michael O’Connor, I’ve not read an article yet that quoted the Board or County Exec acknowleding that John Vartanian was fired. He was “at will” in his position, so he could have been given an ultimatum to retire, or be fired.

    He could very well be collecting a CalPers government retirement pension by now to the tune of over $100k annually, plus free medical for life.

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