The deadline for Leesburg employees to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate has passed.
Since the council voted to enact the mandate Oct. 12, requiring its full- and part-time employees and most of its board and commission members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there have been a total of 13 resignations attributed to the mandate.
In total, the town government has had nine resignations from the Leesburg Police Department, with seven of the nine citing the mandate as the reason for their departure; four part-time employees have resigned due to the mandate; and two board and commission members. There have been five additional full-time employees and one part-timer that have resigned from the town government since Oct. 12, but they cited reasons other than the mandate.
According to Public Information Officer Betsy Arnett, a total of 50 religious or medical exemptions were granted—29 for full-time employees; 20 for part-time employees; and one for a board or commission member.
Arnett said any employees who have not yet complied with the mandate have been placed on leave without pay for five days. Personnel action to terminate those employees will occur if compliance is not reached after day five. As of Wednesday afternoon, two of the town’s 344 full-time employees and one of its 320 part-time employees have not yet complied with the mandate.
Noncompliant board and commission members are not eligible to receive stipends or to participate in board or commission meetings, Arnett said. Action to formally remove non-compliant members will be placed on the Town Council’s Jan. 25 agenda. Members of the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals were not required to comply with the mandate as those bodies are state-mandated and there is no authority for the town to dismiss members for not complying. Two of the 73 board and commission members have not yet complied with the mandate.
During Tuesday night’s council meeting, council members Kari Nacy and Suzanne Fox made one final plea to their council colleagues to rescind the Oct. 12 action on the mandate. This came after a council majority again, on the motion of Councilman Neil Steinberg, voted to remove an item on rescinding the mandate from the business meeting agenda.
“We have already lost and are going to lose additional employees,” Nacy said. “I believe there is guidance coming from the incoming governor that will change potentially what is happening with the vaccine mandate. I would hate to lose these employees and then turn around and it would be something where they didn’t have to leave.”
Fox also said that, while there have not been a dramatic numbers of resignations, she feared that employees’ impression of the town as an employer may have worsened.
“We haven’t stopped to consider that employees don’t feel safe to speak their mind so they don’t come to you, they come to me and council member Nacy,” she said. “I believe there will be ramifications. This council saw them as disposable and were willing to let them go rather than make their own medical decisions.”
After the majority of members voted to remove the request to discuss dropping the mandate from Tuesday’s meeting agenda, the Town Council heard from several public speakers who urged the town to reverse course, saying employees should be free to make their own decisions on medical care, raising concerns about the safety of the vaccinations, and urging town leaders to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court and the administration of incoming governor Glenn Youngkin to issue new direction on such workplace mandates.