LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to direct staff to explore ways disciplinary action can be transferred from heads of departments to the Director of Personnel.
"To protect county lives we have to enforce this mandate," said County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl during the meeting.
Despite an executive order mandating all county employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, 2021, or face disciplinary action including termination, Kuehl said that countywide compliance with the policy remains a challenge, with only 81.5% of employees, approximately 82,000, being fully vaccinated. The motion will be considered on Tuesday during the next Board of Supervisors meeting to learn if officials can assign disciplinary responsibilities to another official rather than the heads of each department.
"This motion says to our department heads, we are not going to permit county lives to be jeopardized by an individual's decision not to comply with county policy," said Kuehl.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded to this potential shift in enforcement on Twitter Monday night, claiming the county will terminate 18,000 unvaccinated employees, 4,000 of whom are from his department. The motion put forth by Kuehl said that less than 60% of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is fully vaccinated. Nowhere in the motion does the word "termination" nor "terminate" appear.
In the past, Villanueva has said that he will not discipline members of his department, and will continue with voluntary compliance to the vaccine mandate. The Sheriff's Department continued to require testing for the unvaccinated.
"[This motion] is going to be a death blow to safety in L.A. County," he said. "This almost amounts to a suicide pact."
"This is ill-advised, illogical and probably in the long run illegal. And by the time you figure out the legality of it we're going to be passed the pandemic."
Villanueva added that in the last 30 days, positivity rates among his vaccinated and unvaccinated employees were almost the same. However, many on the Board and in the community agreed the mandate saves lives however, some want to save jobs.
"People should be vaccinated but the politicization of it has been the unfortunate element in this," said resident Penny Landreth during the meeting.
The vote allows county attorneys to explore what changes need to be made to current rules and policies to allow someone other than a department head to enforce something like a vaccine mandate. The Board of Supervisors plans to submit the newly amended ordinance by March 15.
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