Screenshot via Orange County Board of County Commissioners
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings was not cowed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' continued threats against the county over vaccine mandates.
DeSantis called out Orange County at a rally earlier this week, noting the story of a fire and rescue battalion chief who was terminated for refusing to discipline firefighters
who ran afoul of the county's employee vaccine mandate. In a press conference on Thursday, Demings told state leaders they knew where to find him if they had a problem.
“They seem to care more about using firefighters as political pawns, rather than public servants who are entrusted to protect and serve,” Demings said
. “So, if you ask me what is my response to the governor or anyone else, I say these simple words: bring it on.”
DeSantis trotted out fired battalion chief Stephen Davis, who held to his claim that he was merely defending employees who he believed were listed in violation in error.
"Can we confirm these things? Can we confirm that these people shouldn’t be on this list?" he asked, at the rally. "I had personal conversations with several who said they had the vaccination. And yet I was ordered to give them reprimands.”
Davis later called the vaccination order "unlawful," holding to a line espoused by several Orange County firefighters suing the county over the mandate
The back-and-forth is an escalation of rhetoric
we've been hearing from both Demings and DeSantis over the last few months. Demings has repeatedly assured
residents that the county's mandate on government employees is within the law while DeSantis has threatened millions in fines. Leon County in North Florida has already been fined to the tune of $3.5 million
, but Orange County hasn't budged.
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