The state of Florida has agreed to withdraw its $3.5 million penalty levied against Leon County government over the county’s vaccine mandate. The county rescinded its vaccine mandates earlier this month after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation requiring alternatives to forced COVID vaccinations.
“The county strongly contends that our employee vaccination requirement was not only completely legally justifiable at that time, but was also a necessary and responsible action to take to protect our employees and protect the public,” said Leon County Administrator Vince Long.
At the time of the vaccine mandate being rescinded, Long defended his actions while simultaneously adhering to the new state law.
“In July, when Delta cases were surging and vaccinations were plummeting the county instituted an employee vaccination requirement as a condition of employment. These actions were absolutely necessary to take given the volatility, uncertainty and highly infectious nature of this deadly virus, in order to keep our employees safe, protect the public, and ensure our readiness as a frontline response organization.
That said, the legislation passed in special session (HB 1, Section 3) prohibits Leon County from requiring employee vaccinations going forward and we intend to of course follow this new law, which became effective Nov. 18.
With respect to Leon County’s employee vaccination requirement that went into effect on July 28 and for which the Department of Health issued a Notice of Violation, consistent with Board direction, the county will defend its legal authority to have instituted an employee vaccination mandate not inconsistent with existing law at that time.”
Another contingent of the settlement with the state is that the 14 employees who lost their jobs as a result of the mandate, would be considered as candidates should they seek employment with the county again.
A spokesperson for the DeSantis administration said the mandate was not “justified from either a moral perspective or a public health perspective.”
Part of the settlement also includes provisions that the state will waive the fines imposed against the county and for the county’s employees to release any claims to damages, attorney’s fees, and other costs.
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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “A WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital RN Receives Her COVID-19 Vaccine Dose” by Governor Tom Wolf. CC BY 2.0.