HomeCity Government NewsHerman Off BWP Board for Vaccine Mandate Noncompliance

Herman Off BWP Board for Vaccine Mandate Noncompliance

First published in the Feb. 19, 2022, print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Burbank City Council voted this week to remove a member of the municipal utility board for refusing to comply with a vaccination mandate.

Paul Herman, a realtor who has been on the volunteer-led Burbank Water and Power Board since 2015, said that he is vaccinated against COVID-19, but does not believe city commission members — who have been meeting virtually for nearly all of the pandemic — should be required to provide their vaccination status. He has also said city employees should not face termination for noncompliance with the vaccination policy, which went into effect in January.

A majority of the City Council disagreed during its Tuesday meeting, however, voting 3-2 to remove Herman — the only city panel member who had not either provided proof of vaccination or submitted an exemption request by the deadline — from his position. The council was originally scheduled to consider municipal officials’ recommendation to terminate him during last week’s meeting, but agreed to postpone its decision because one of its members was absent.

Councilwoman Sharon Springer, who served on the BWP Board with Herman, and Councilman Bob Frutos both opposed his removal, pointing out the virtual nature of commission meetings. Both members opposed the vaccination mandate when it was introduced last year, though they have supported vaccination against COVID-19.

“To take a city commissioner sitting at home reviewing meetings via Zoom with no public contact in his capacity as a commissioner … is to me very over-heavy handed,” Frutos said Tuesday, “and I just feel that it sends the wrong message.”
Frutos and Springer also lauded Herman’s involvement in the community, which includes being board president of the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley.

Mayor Jess Talamantes, who endorsed Herman when he unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2020, agreed with their comments, but said the council had to abide by the rules it had approved.

“He’s great in the community, very engaged, and I support him for that,” Talamantes said. “But when it comes to this, it comes to the fact that I’m a council member and I have to implement policies that we have in place.”

Herman addressed the council during public comment, saying that he should not be forced to share his personal medical information to attend a virtual meeting.

“I can no more transit the COVID virus to you through this telephone than I can through my computer at a virtual board meeting,” he said. “Is this mandate truly about protecting people or simply punishing them for not complying?”

Councilman Nick Schultz said that he was sympathetic to Herman’s point about being a participant in a virtual meeting, but noted that city boards will eventually return to in-person discussions.

“[And] the way I read it, he has a fundamental disagreement with providing personal information to the government,” Schultz said. “I don’t agree with him — I respect it, that is his choice, but every choice has a consequence.”


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