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Republicans on City Council criticize mayor’s vaccination ‘bonus’ plan

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - The five Republican members of Fort Wayne City Council have sent a letter to Mayor Tom Henry criticizing his plan to provide cash payments to City employees who demonstrate proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Henry, a Democrat, announced last week that he intends to implement a $200 "wellness incentive" bonus for those who voluntarily confirm they are vaccinated.

Henry also said he is "evaluating the possibility of implementing additional measures to help ensure more City employees get vaccinated by a November 1 deadline put in place today by the City Administration."

But in a letter provided to ABC21, the five Council members say that body was never consulted.

"No information was provided about the cost or funding source of these benefits," it reads. "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?"

Following the announcement on Sept. 2, Henry told ABC21 the money would come from a "wellness fund... It's really money we had set aside for them. We figure it's their money, and we should share it with them."

The letter suggests that the move sets a "contentious tone" for upcoming budget discussions, and argues that state law "explicitly prohibits local governments from mandating vaccines" -- though Henry has not stated that vaccination would be a requirement of continued employment.

The letter is signed by Jason Arp, Tom Didier, Paul Ensley, Tom Freistroffer and Russ Jehl.

Four Democrats on the Council did not sign the document.

In a statement provided on request, Henry spokesman John Perlich said the Administration is "in the process of reviewing the letter... Mayor Henry's office notified City Council of plans to require masks again in City-owned facilities and the wellness incentive plan for City employees ahead of last week's news conference. A notice was sent to City Council earlier in the day of the news conference."

Perlich specified that the funds would come from the Group Health Insurance Fund, which he said does not require Council approval.

"The fund accounts for all health-related costs of the City for its employees," he said.

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Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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