‘Bring it on’: Orange County mayor responds to DeSantis outrage over firing of battalion chief

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Orange County mayor Jerry Demings briefs county residents on the status of Hurricane Dorian during a press conference at the Orange County Administration building in Orlando, Fla. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP) FILE – This May 4 2021 file photo shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, speaks during a news conference at West Miami Middle School in Miami. Several states scaled back their reporting of COVID-19 statistics this July 2021, just as cases across the country started to skyrocket, depriving the public of real-time information on outbreaks, cases, hospitalizations and deaths in their communities. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH) —Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings replied on Thursday to Gov. DeSantis’ backing of the Orange County firefighters lawsuit against the county over its vaccine mandate as well as the governor’s pledge to pass a law banning such mandates in Florida.

Orange County Fire Rescue Batallion chief Stephen Davis was terminated for not disciplining employees who failed to comply with the county’s vaccine mandate.

“We value and respect and love our firefighters,” Demings said. “Vaccinated firefighters are better prepared to serve than those who are not.”

The mayor stressed that 95% of county employees complied with the vaccine mandate, including 88% of firefighters.

“Only one chose to be insubordinate,” he said. “We will aggressively defend our right to defend our citizens and our employees.”

He says the county will address any false claims made by the chief and ultimately the courts will decide.

At a news conference in Titusville Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Davis’ firing was wrong.

“I think the firing was totally inappropriate. I think it’s ridiculous. And, these are people who have served our communities and they’re being tossed aside. I mean, it is illegal to do it and there’s going to be a response,” DeSantis said.

Demings said DeSantis cares more about “using firefighters as political pawns than treating them as public servants.”

He said he has been assured he is well within the bounds of the law to enforce the vaccine mandate.

Demings said 58,000 Floridians have died due to failure of leadership and to the governor: “bring it on.”

The governor’s office sent a response to WESH 2 News:

“A month ago, Mayor Demings promised that no one would lose their jobs over the vaccine policy. He has already broken this promise. Worse, it sounds like Mayor Demings is proud of forcing a hardworking father of two young children out of work. Mr. Davis has put his life on the line to protect Orange County residents throughout the pandemic, and it is simply despicable that the Mayor’s grandstanding power-trip would prevent this heroic first responder from earning a living and taking care of his family and community.”

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