PULLMAN, Wash. -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is disputing Nick Rolovich's statements that the Democrat targeted the former Washington State University football coach with his statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all public employees.
Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk said of the coach: "He's just wrong," The Spokesman Review reported.
That's in response to Rolovich's 34-page appeal letter to the university filed this week that argues athletic director Pat Chun declared in an Aug. 19 conversation that the governor "did this [mandate] just to come after Coach Rolovich and WSU."
The coach was fired in October for not complying with the governor's order that all state employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Rolovich, 42, was the highest-paid state employee with an annual salary of more than $3 million in a contract that runs through 2025. Because he was fired for cause, the coach will not be paid the balance of his contract.
Rolovich was denied his request for a religious exemption last month, which he said he sought based on his Catholic beliefs.
The Catholic Church has not prohibited vaccinations against COVID-19, though some Catholics still oppose vaccination. Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have stated that all COVID-19 vaccines are morally acceptable and that Catholics have a duty, responsibility or obligation to be vaccinated.
The appeal letter also says Chun overturned a decision by the university's Human Resource Services to grant Rolovich a religious exemption to the vaccination mandate.
"Based on the context of Mr. Chun's statement, Coach Rolovich understood 'did this' to mean that Governor Inslee was trying to force Coach Rolovich's hand with his new mandate," the appeal stated, "because he was angry that the highest paid and one of the highest profile state employees had asserted personal or religious objections to his vaccine mandate."
Faulk said the state's goal is "to maximize vaccinations to save as many lives as possible, all appropriate within the boundaries of the law."
"It is not unusual to disallow a personal exemption as it relates to vaccines for deadly and highly transmissible viruses. For example, in K-12 a personal or philosophical exemption is not allowed (by statute) for mumps, measles, and rubella vaccines," Faulk said via email.
A university spokesperson said the school would have no comment on the appeal letter.