AG Warns City Could Lose Millions in Funds
PHOENIX – The City of Tucson announced Tuesday that it will be putting its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its employees on pause after the state’s attorney general declared it illegal.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich says that his office determined the City of Tucson’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public employees does violate state law for purposes of S.B. 1487, and also is in direct conflict with the Governor’s Executive Order 2021-18. Therefore, Tucson must rescind or amend the ordinance to come into compliance with state law, or lose millions of dollars in state funding.
“Tucson’s vaccine mandate is illegal, and the city could be held liable for attempting to force employees to take it against their beliefs,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “COVID-19 vaccinations should be a choice, not a government mandate.”
Through a “S.B. 1487” investigation, the AGO determined Tucson’s Ordinance 11869, which mandates COVID-19 vaccines for city employees, violates state law and thus the city cannot require public employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. The legislature’s intent was clear when it passed S.B. 1824 earlier this year – government entities from the local to state level cannot mandate COVID-19 vaccines. This law was further supplemented by the Governor’s Executive Order 2021-18 (E.O. 2021-18) in August 2021.In the AGO’s opinion, Tucson public employees could rely in good faith on E.O. 2021-18 and state law to refuse the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Today, the AGO officially notified the City of Tucson that its COVID-19 vaccine ordinance is in violation of state law and must be rescinded or amended. As expressly provided in S.B. 1487, if the City of Tucson does not rescind its policy within the next 30 days, the AGO will notify the Arizona Treasurer, who will withhold the city’s portion of state shared revenue until it comes into compliance.
Additionally, the AGO believes the City of Tucson could subject itself to potential liability claims if it were to take adverse action against an employee who relies on E.O. 2021-18 and state law to refuse the vaccine.