The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved an introductory motion that seeks full COVID-19 vaccination compliance from county employees by moving enforcement authority from county department heads, to the director of human resources.

Approximately 83% of Los Angeles County employees have either complied with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement or requested medical/religious exemption and the proposal could affect up to 10,000 county employees who have yet to be vaccinated.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion and called out county leaders for not fully enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine requirement in their departments.

“And you, county department head, if you will not take this matter seriously and enforce it in your department, a county director of personnel is willing to do so,” Kuehl said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “Six months have now passed and we don’t have 100% compliance. The refusal to get vaccinated… really puts lives at risk and it is simply unacceptable.”

Kuehl then went on to call out L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, specifically, accusing the department of not inputting employee vaccination data.

“The sheriff has taken to sort of an interesting public campaign,” Kuehl said. “In this case, we have the absolute right to say these are our employees, not yours and we need to protect them and their families, and all the people they stop and say, ‘roll down your window.'”

Sheriff Villanueva responded by calling the vote a “suicide pact” and a “moral failure of leadership.

Villanueva also rebutted the Supervisors’ claim that the Sheriff’s dept. was responsible for 74% of county worker COVID cases, by saying the percentage was primarily from a time vaccines were not yet available.

“It is important to remember Department personnel who chose not to vaccinate are required to submit to weekly COVID testing, and have committed no administrative offense,” Villanueva said Tuesday. “This is nothing more than another politically motivated stunt by the Board, which has no bearing on public health, but will definitely harm public safety.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who withheld her vote, questioned the motives behind the motion, saying she felt like it was authored purely in response to Sheriff Villanueva.

“This action is in response to an individual – Sheriff Villanueva, to be specific, Barger said Tuesday. “To change a policy over one individual isn’t appropriate. Our county’s COVID-19 employee vaccine mandate is an important part of our commitment to keep the public safe from a deadly virus – but not at the expense of decreasing services we are obligated to provide.

“Our Board should not seek an approach that erodes the management responsibilities of our county departments’ leaders nor results in the mass firing of essential workers. We still have an invaluable opportunity to broker solutions by working with labor union leaders – we have not exhausted that course of action.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn supported the motion, but requested that work be done to lift the Sheriff’s Dept. hiring freeze and expand academy opportunities in the event that terminations lead to a reduced staff.

While current vaccine regulations already ask departments to terminate those who choose not to be compliant, this motion opens the door for more terminations by shifting the responsibility to human resources.

The motion received a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Barger abstaining, with the Board expected to take a final vote on the proposal, March 15.

LA Weekly