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Ducey's office threatens Tucson leaders with criminal penalties for vaccine mandate

Posted: 4:09 PM, Oct 20, 2021
Updated: 2021-10-21 20:02:57-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A letter from an attorney in Gov. Doug Ducey's office is threatening Tucson city leaders with criminal penalties for mandating city employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon, the mayor and councilmembers voted 4-3 to terminate city employees who refused to be vaccinated by Dec. 1. Employees have already submitted requests for religious or medical exemptions, but more than 100 police officers, firefighters, 911 communications staff and others still haven't submitted proof of vaccination to the city.

The governor posted the letter to Twitter Wednesday afternoon, addressed to Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin from attorney Anni L. Foster in Ducey's office.

"I took an oath to uphold Arizona’s laws and ensure they are faithfully executed, and I will continue to do so," the governor stated. "My office has informed the City of Tucson that their policy is in conflict with the law and, as such, should be rescinded."

In closing her letter, Foster went even further in demanding the city retract its mandate.

"As you [City Attorney Mike Rankin], the Mayor and Council are well aware ... violation of an executive order issued with the authority of an emergency declaration carries a criminal penalty," she writes.

Last month, a Maricopa County Judge struck down a provision in the recently-passed state budget that prohibited local governments or schools from requiring vaccines or masks. Though the ruling is awaiting appeal, Tucson city leaders have said the decision allows them to proceed with a vaccination mandate for city employees.

Foster argued in Wednesday's letter that the court ruling applies to only part of the law, and other statutes still prohibit the city from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations.

Read the full letter via the governor's tweet below:

In response to the letter, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero issued a statement:

“It is deeply unfortunate not just for Tucsonans, but all Arizonans that Governor Ducey is more interested in playing politics with the vaccine than taking any action whatsoever to protect public health. This is just another politically motivated attempt to micromanage Tucson and deflect from his utter failure to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The vaccine is safe, widely available, and effective. Please do your part to protect yourself and fellow community members by getting vaccinated.”

Tucson City Attorney, Mike Rankin repudiated the claims made by attorney Foster in a letter of his own sent to the Governor's general counsel in response on Thursday, seen below.