Orange County battalion chief fired for failing to enforce vaccine mandate

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Orange County Fire Rescue battalion chief lost his job after failing to write up employees who did not comply with the county’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

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Documents show Battalion Chief Stephen Davis was supposed to write people up who did not follow the mandate starting Oct. 5.

When that didn’t happen, the department said Davis was disobeying a direct order from his supervisors under the county mandate.

A termination letter sent to Davis on Monday did not say why he refused to follow the order, but the union told Channel 9 that Davis was not writing people up who didn’t get their information in on time for religious exemptions and vaccinations, as he didn’t feel it was right.

READ: Orange County to discipline unvaccinated employees over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

He was relieved of duty. The termination letter states that as of Tuesday at 5 p.m., he will be fired for a list of violations including “insubordination, conduct unbecoming and failing to obey a direct order.”

The county first said any employee would be terminated if they didn’t get vaccinated, but Mayor Jerry Demings walked that decision back and the union and mayor worked out that they’d be given two reprimands first.

WATCH: Orange County mayor: Employees who don’t comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandate won’t be fired

The Orange County fire union that represents Davis said he didn’t do the write ups because Davis explained to his superiors that the list of unvaccinated firefighters was not updated yet and he did not want to issue the reprimands for people who didn’t deserve it.

“He didn’t do what he was asked to do because he realized some people on the spreadsheet that he received were fully vaccinated and had religious exemptions at the time and he knew it was unlawful and violating state law,” said firefighter Jason Wheat.

READ: Dozens of Orange County firefighters file lawsuit over vaccine mandate

The union said in an email that as of last week 289 firefighters were on the list and that there were 60 reprimands issued in error.

The union said Davis has a disciplinary history that only consists of not wearing a seatbelt and an accident, but nothing as serious as this.

READ: Firefighters protest against Orange County vaccine mandate

Channel 9 was told Davis is not vaccinated and is part of a lawsuit against the county over the vaccine mandates, but Wheat said that did not factor in his firing.

Stay tuned to Channel 9 Eyewitness News for developments on this breaking news story.

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.