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Heated exchange after racially charged comments at San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting

Tuesday's meeting included some often-vitriolic public testimony, including one speaker's racially charged comment directed at Public Health Director, Wilma Wooten.

SAN DIEGO — The county Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to keep a vaccine mandate for new employees in place, following a lengthy and occasionally contentious public hearing that included a heated exchange involving an individual speaker and Supervisor Nora Vargas after the speaker made several personal attacks on board members and a public health official.

The new vote was taken in response to a letter challenging the mandate, which was originally passed on Oct. 5, also by a 3-2 vote. Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher, Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer and Vice Chairwoman Nora Vargas voted yes. Supervisors Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond were opposed.

The exact nature of the challenge to the mandate was not revealed, but it appeared to question the propriety of the original vote under the state's open meeting law. County staff indicated the new vote was taken "in an abundance of caution under government Code Section 54960.1," a reference to the Brown Act open meetings law.

In August, the county adopted a policy requiring existing employees to either be fully vaccinated or take weekly COVID-19 tests. The mandate for vaccines applies to new county hires.

Anderson and Desmond have both said they oppose a vaccine mandate.

Tuesday's meeting included some often-vitriolic public testimony, including one speaker who made a racially charged comment directed at county Public Health Director Dr. Wilma Wooten, who is Black. The man who identified himself as Jason Robo also insulted several of the supervisors during his comments.

The remark Robo made about Wooten prompted an angry response from Supervisor Vargas, who peppered her retort with an expletive.

WARNING: The video below of the exchange involves racially charged language that may not be suitable for all:

Fletcher, the board chairman, said that while dissent is a healthy part of a functioning democracy, it has been sad to watch vaccine-mandate opponents launch personal attacks on board members and county officials simply because they don't agree with their policies. Fletcher's full comments can be heard below: 

WATCH RELATED: San Diego doctors fact-check COVID-19 misinformation from County Board of Supervisors meetings (October 6, 2021)