KAYSVILLE — As the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations picks up, the Kaysville city manager has apologized for a controversial pair of messages to city employees last week casting aspersions on those who opt out of getting the vaccine.
Mayor Katie Witt on Monday came to the defense of the city administrator, Shayne Scott, saying he had apologized for the comments. Scott, who also apologized in a third message to city staffers on Sunday, won’t be sanctioned, Witt said.
“He did apologize for that and he recognizes ... that he should not have let his opinions bleed into the communication,” said Witt, who spoke to Scott on the matter. “Shayne Scott cares for the health and well-being of the staff. That is where the statements came from. He wants our staff to be safe and healthy.”
Scott, who has served as Kaysville’s city manager since mid-2016, came under fire after a copy of a memo he sent to city staffers on Wednesday, Feb. 10, started circulating on social media. It was meant as an update and reminder on varied matters related to COVID-19 and the city’s guidelines on preventing the spread of the virus.
He reminded staffers about the city policy requiring use of face coverings in the office. He also expressed hope that the city may be able to hold a vaccine clinic for staffers once the vaccination priority groups expand to younger ages. Then he edged into the topic of whether to vaccinate or not, the comments that generated an outcry from some, underscoring the broader debate in some circles about vaccinating.
“Whether you choose to get the vaccine or not is up to you. It is my hope that as a society we will discriminate against those that choose not to get a vaccine,” Scott said in the most controversial section of the memo. “If I am legally able to do it I will also do all I can to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. While your choice to get vaccinated is yours alone, encouraging others in our city to not get vaccinated with misinformation or conspiracy theories is not ok and will not be tolerated.”
In a followup email to city staff on Friday, Scott, who didn’t immediately respond to a Standard-Examiner query seeking comment, elaborated on the remark about discriminating against those who don’t vaccinate. “Perhaps the word ‘discriminate’ is too strong, but frankly I can’t think of a different word I want to use,” Scott wrote.
To illustrate his point, he went on to say he’d be supportive of a policy prohibiting entry to those who haven’t vaccinated to a planned city concert later this year. “I want society to make distinctions between (vaccinators and non-vaccinators) if that keeps my loved ones who are compromised in certain ways and have chosen to get the vaccine as safe as they can be from this deadly disease,” Scott wrote.
That didn’t seem to calm the waters, and on Sunday, Scott send a third email to city staffers, saying he had “overstepped” in sharing his thoughts. Witt confirmed the veracity of the first two messages, circulated via social media, and provided a copy of the third one.
“I’m so sorry if my email felt shaming to anyone. I don’t want to shame anyone for not getting the vaccine,” Scott wrote. “I know many people individually that work in our city that have chosen to not get the vaccine. I had my own reservations about the vaccine early on. Those that choose to not get the vaccine are every bit as valuable to me and our organization as anyone that has.”
Witt said the city won’t require staffers to get the vaccine, nor will it sanction or punish those who opt not to be vaccinated. “It is obviously 100% every person’s decision whether they get the vaccine,” she told the Standard-Examiner.
Scott’s original memo actually generated a mix of responses. In a stream on a Facebook page focused on Kaysville politics, some posters expressed support for the city official.
“As a society, we should be as disapproving as possible of people who don’t get vaccines, especially when there is a ubiquitous health threat like a global pandemic. It is your responsibility to get vaccinated to help protect the vulnerable segment of our population who can’t,” said the poster.
Some comments, though, went the other way.
“I love how so many people spout off that we need to wear masks and get vaccinated to be considerate of those around us. Then in the next sentence feel ok saying we should discriminate against others (who may in fact have a legit concern preventing them from these actions). Way to be a great person,” said another poster.
Michelle Barber, a member of the Kaysville City Council, offered words of support, while not condoning Scott’s remarks.
“Shayne has served Kaysville for 5 years as City Manager and helped the city navigate and weather this pandemic quite well,” she said in the same Facebook feed focused on Scott’s original message. “He has also made mistakes, and this is one of them. I hope whomever shared these screenshots with the original poster will also share the apology he sent (Sunday) morning.”
Witt, meantime, decried calls for harsh punitive action against Scott, criticizing the “cancel culture,” the push among some for those who express controversial sentiments to be socially or professional ostracized.
“I am not going to fine him at all. He is an excellent city manager. The cancel culture has got to stop,” Witt said.