Washington Governor Jay Inslee has disputed former Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich’s claim that he was the target of the Democrat’s statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all public employees.

“He’s just wrong,” Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk said according to The Spokesman-Review.

Rolovich was fired in October for not complying with the governor’s order that all state employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

  The coach wrote a 34-page appeal letter to the university this week. In the letter, he argues that Athletic Director Pat Chun declared in an August 19 conversation that the governor “did this (mandate) just to come after Coach Rolovich and WSU.”

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, which he said he sought based on his Catholic beliefs.

“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,” the letter added.

The 42-year-old Rolovich 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.

The Catholic Church has not prohibited vaccinations against COVID-19, though some Catholics still oppose vaccination. Pope Francis and the US 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.

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 was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

(With AP inputs)