The Florida Department of Health fined Leon County more than $3.5 million last week after it fired over a dozen workers for refusing to show proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Florida sent a letter to Leon County administrator Vincent Long on Wednesday notifying him that the county has been found to have violated state law 714 times and would be fined $3.57 million. Long said he would fight the fines and “enforce its rights” against the state.
“By way of media reports, Leon County was made aware of a notice from the Florida Department of Health regarding the County’s vaccination requirement,” Long told Fox 4. “There is a genuine disagreement about the applicability of the statute and rule, and the County will enforce its rights using any remedies available at law, if necessary.”
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis blasted Leon County on September 13 for firing 14 employees who refused to show proof of vaccination.
“We are going to protect Florida jobs. We are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate,” DeSantis said at the time, according to Fox 4. “You don’t just cast aside people who’ve been serving faithfully over this issue over, what’s basically a personal choice on their individual health. We cannot let these folks be cast aside. We cannot allow their jobs to be destroyed and their families and livelihoods, potentially, to be destroyed as well.”
Gov. DeSantis signed legislation in May barring businesses and government agencies from requiring employees show proof of vaccination. The legislation also banned the enforcement of so-called “vaccine passport” policies by private and public organizations.
“Over the last year we’ve avoided protracted lockdowns and school closures in Florida because I have refused to take the same approach as other lockdown Governors. This legislation ensures that legal safeguards are in place so that local governments cannot arbitrarily close our schools or businesses,” DeSantis said at the time. “In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision.”
The month before, while lawmakers in the Florida Legislature were working on the legislation, DeSantis issued an executive order banning vaccine passports. The Florida governor said that COVID-19 passports would create “two classes of citizens.” As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
DeSantis noted that “the State of Florida is leading the effort to distribute the vaccine to elderly and vulnerable populations of the State and has successfully provided vaccines to nearly 3.5 million seniors,” that “many Floridians have not yet had the opportunity to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination, some have infection-acquired immunity, and others may be unable to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination due to health, religious, or other reasons,” and that “Florida seeks to ensure that every Floridian who desires a COVID-19 vaccine can obtain one, but such vaccines will not be mandated.”
DeSantis also stated that “requiring so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life — such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant, or going to a movie theater — would create two classes of citizens based on vaccination.”