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City Council schedules vote to block firings from Elorza’s vaccine mandate

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — City Council President John Igliozzi has scheduled a vote for Friday afternoon to try and stop Mayor Jorge Elorza from firing workers en masse who don’t comply with his new vaccine mandate.

The deadline is Friday for all city workers to get at least one dose of the COVID vaccine or be terminated from their jobs. Up to 80 police officers out of 450 remained unvaccinated as of last week, according to Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré. It’s unclear how many officers have opted to get vaccinated this week ahead of the deadline.

Friday’s vote to block the mass firings, if approved by a majority of councilors, would not immediately stop Elorza from enforcing the policy. Ordinances must pass the council twice, and then the mayor can either veto or sign it into law.

If Elorza vetoes the ordinance, the council would need to schedule a two-thirds majority vote to override his veto.

The council’s ordinance would not outright block the vaccine policy, but would effectively prevent its enforcement. It would prevent the city from firing more than 2% of employees in any public safety department, or more than 20% of a city department with more than 30 employees, within a six-month period without council approval.

The ordinance would apply to any terminations on or after Jan. 14.

“The city cannot have the mayor fire 60, 70 police officers and jeopardize public safety,” Igliozzi said in an interview for Pulse of Providence last week. “That is a reckless action by the mayor and his staff.”

“The city will be completely lawless,” Igliozzi said. “It will be a complete ruin of the city.”

Speaking with reporters Thursday, he said any mass firing should require a public plan for how city services will be maintained.

“The last thing we all want is come Saturday morning, 70 police officers have been fired,” Igliozzi said.

While Elorza’s new policy — announced shortly before the new year — says employees will be terminated if they are not vaccinated by the deadline, he had not previously said when he would actually fire the police officers who refuse to get the shot.

“Folks aren’t going to be fired at 4:31 on Friday,” Elorza told reporters Wednesday in response to Igliozzi’s announcement. “We’re going to take next week, we’re going to reviewing all of the attestations around vaccinations. … Then we’re going to start the administrative process.”

“Calm down,” he added, referring to Igliozzi’s comments about lawlessness. “That’s not the way we do our policy, that’s not the way we run the city.” He said it had been made clear to Igliozzi that the police officers would not be immediately fired.

Elorza did not say whether he would veto the council ordinance.

The city held a vaccine clinic at the Police Department headquarters this week in an effort to get the remaining officers vaccinated. Elorza said he wanted to stay firm to the deadline to give officers a final nudge, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus to the public.

His office has said he would work with officers who have appointments scheduled, or who recently had COVID and are therefore not eligible to get vaccinated right away.

The Providence Police union, which staunchly opposes the mandate, has been in talks with city lawyers to try and negotiate an agreement, but Elorza has thus far not budged on the Friday deadline.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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