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Department of Health to fine Leon Co. $3.57M for vaccine passport ban violations

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 12:04 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 9:37 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Florida Department of Health is fining Leon County a total of $3.57 million for violating the state’s ban on COVID-19 vaccine passports, according to an email from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office.

According to DOH’s notice of violation, the county is facing 714 counts for requiring employees to provide proof of vaccination against the coronavirus. The email from the governor’s office also says the county fired 14 employees for not complying with its vaccine requirement.

A spokesperson for the governor provided the following statement after the fines were announced Tuesday:

“It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, infringed on current and former employees’ medical privacy, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions. Governor DeSantis will continue fighting for Floridians’ rights and the Florida Department of Health will continue to enforce the law.”

The statute Leon County violated says government entities can’t require that a person show any documentation proving they’ve received the coronavirus vaccine or recovered from the virus in order to enter its buildings or receive services from it.

Under the statute and state’s COVID rules, DOH is able to issue a $5,000 fine per person who was asked to show proof of vaccination. Leon County first required its employees to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on July 28, with a deadline of Oct. 1.

County Administrator Vince Long sent the following statement to WCTV Tuesday afternoon:

“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. 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.”

Long said in September that Leon County’s vaccine mandate is legal and will hold up in court.

“We believe that requiring our employees as a condition of employment to become vaccinated is legal,” Long said. “It’s permissible. The EEOC agrees with us, the DOJ agrees with us, federal district courts agree with us, and we also believe that it’s not inconsistent with Florida law.”

When the county first announced the vaccine requirement in July, Long said it was his decision alone to issue it, saying he felt it was the only way to ensure safety for county employees.

Leon County’s vaccine mandate does not apply to constitutional officers, including sheriff’s deputies, clerks of court and tax appraisers.

DOH says Leon County has 30 days to pay the fine.

Below, you’ll find the violation notice sent to the county. You can also access it here.

This is a developing story. WCTV is reaching out to Leon County officials for reaction and comment.

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