On Sept. 10 the five Republicans on Fort Wayne City Council sent a letter to Democratic Mayor Tom Henry criticizing him for offering cash bonuses to city employees who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Sept. 2 Henry announced the city would give a $200 wellness incentive to city employees who are fully vaccinated or get fully vaccinated. The announcement from the mayor’s office stated that employees can voluntarily provide proof of vaccination, but “By State of Indiana law, the City of Fort Wayne isn’t able to require proof of City employees having received the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Henry also is considering other measures to help ensure that more city employees get vaccinated by a Nov. 1 deadline.

Each year, the city offers flu shots to employees. This fall, the Allen County Department of Health will offer COVID-19 shots and flu shots at the same time to make it more convenient for city employees.

In the letter to Henry the five Republicans accused Henry of injecting “partisan politics” into this debate, which has turned ugly across the nation as the issue has turned from a public health issue to one that pits individuals’ health choices against government mandates intended to slow the spread of the disease.

But the five Republicans who signed the letter — Jason Arp, 4th District; Tom Didier, 3rd District; Paul Ensley, 1st District; Tom Freistroffer, at large; and Russell Jehl, 2nd District — had other issues, primarily regarding being shut out of the plan and kept in the dark.

“This benefit was not discussed with City Council, the fiscal body of our local government. No information was provided about the cost or funding source of these benefits. Do you intend to seek Council approval for this benefit, or an appropriation of funding? If not, what funding do you intend to reallocate for this purpose?” the letter asked.

The letter goes on to say the administration’s reallocation of funds that council approved for another purpose “undermines the collaborative relationship between the legislative and executive branch.”

It then asked, why create a contentious tone right before budget hearings start.

The letter closes with the five Republicans accusing Henry of politicizing city employees’ health benefits. It closes saying “The public needs more collaboration leadership from all of us.”

It doesn’t specifically ask the mayor to do anything.

At the mayor’s Sept. 2 news conference, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter urged eligible, unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Sutter also provided an update on the dire situation locally with high COVID-19 case counts, deaths, and the strain being placed on hospitals and the overall health care system.

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