Tucson being investigated over vaccine mandate

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 7:29 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Arizona State Attorney General Mark Brnovich is investigating whether Tucson broke state law when it imposed a mandatory mask mandate on its employees.

State prosecutors are conducting the investigation at the request of State Senator Kelly Townsend, a Republican from District 16.

She filed what is known as SB1487 request asking whether if “the Mayor of Tucson Regina Romero and the Tucson city council in violation of Executive Order 2021-18 by requiring city employees to receive a COVID vaccination as a term of employment.”

EO 2021-18 was issued by Gov. Doug Ducey after the city passed the vaccine mandate. In it, the governor says local jurisdictions cannot pass vaccine mandates.

Brnovich has issued an opinion that local governments do not have the legal authority to impose vaccine mandates but he has not ruled on the Tucson case specifically.

He has given the city until Sept. 1 to respond to the question. State prosecutors have 30 days to issue an opinion.

“It’s no longer about the virus and health,” said Townsend. “This is about the rule of law.”

When talking about Romero, she said, it’s “very clear” Romero think’s she’s above the law.

Romero released a statement to KOLD News 13, in which she calls the investigation a “politically motivated tactic that is distracting from the immediate threat that Covid-19 poses to public health.

“I’m confident this complaint will be rejected,” Romero wrote.

Romero is backed up by Councilmember Steve Kozachik, who was one of the leading advocates for the mandate.

“We have a responsibility to the public,” Kozachik said. “We do not believe we are in violation of either the executive order of the state legislature and we’re moving forward with it.”

When the city passed the vaccine mandate, it estimated 1,000 of its workers were not vaccinated. The council approved a measure which said if 750 of those workers were vaccinated by August 20, it would rescind the mandate.

The city estimates it still has about 850 still unvaccinated, a preponderance of them in the police and fire departments.

A Superior Court judge dismissed a challenge by the Tucson police union to enjoin the measure.

“We are moving towards tyranny,” Townsend said. “We need to reign it in and we need to go by the law.”

She says those don’t like the law can work to change it but, can’t just ignore it.

But city leaders say the law can and should be challenged when it comes to public health.

“Kelly Townsend needs to get a revelation that this is not a hoax, this is not tyranny,” said Kozachik. “We’re simply saying to our employees it’s your obligation to get vaccinated.”

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