PORT RICHEY — Before daybreak on a Saturday in late November, police reports say, a Pasco County detention deputy got into a scuffle with his estranged girlfriend.
Port Richey police officers would write in their reports that Taylor Wayne McFadden, 25, kept touching his girlfriend's pregnant belly after she told him to stop. That he snatched her cellphone and grabbed her right arm, scratching her, then dragged her from the bed. In response, the reports state, the woman bit him below his right knee.
McFadden was arrested on a charge of domestic battery. He was a little more than halfway through a one-year probationary period at the Sheriff's Office, so his superiors needed no cause to terminate him. He was fired before he was released from jail.
Out of work, McFadden applied with the state to get unemployment benefits. He was denied, then appealed. He now receives $275 a week from the Pasco Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Chris Nocco is fighting to overturn the decision, questioning why someone who was fired for being arrested in the midst of a probationary status should receive benefits.
"I think there is something wrong with the system when somebody involved in this is able to collect unemployment," Nocco said. "I think the taxpayers should be outraged by this."
The criminal case's circumstances, though, are murky. And the fairness of the Department of Economic Opportunity's decision is to be found somewhere among them.
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McFadden is a homegrown kid. He was born in Port Richey, went to River Ridge High School, then joined New Port Richey police as a dispatch operator. He was hired by the Pasco Sheriff's Office on April 1 to work day shifts at the Land O'Lakes jail for $18.35 an hour.
The personnel file from his seven months with the agency is void of complaints. Recommendations from his application say he's "very dependable," a "work-a-holic" and has "a good overall moral character."
McFadden said he met the woman at the end of September on an online dating site. She was looking to move to the Tampa Bay area from Melbourne for a job at a Tampa mall. He offered a room in his home to rent.
They began dating. He saw she'd fallen on hard times with a suspended license and gave her his debit card, which she quickly drained. She would return from work in the early hours of the morning. Her lack of responsibility became clear, he said. He tried to break it off.
"I was a cop. I had too much to worry about," McFadden told the Times. "I didn't need to be involved with something like this."
He said he was scheduled to work a 6 a.m. shift Nov. 23. He woke up two hours earlier for a run before work. He hadn't seen the woman in two weeks since he tried to end things.
When he got home, the doors were locked. She was inside. Eventually she let him in to sort out their differences.
McFadden says he grabbed the phone off the counter when the woman became violent. She lunged at him. He fell against the wall. She bit him on the leg. He began to call 911. She bit his arm. He went out to driveway with bite marks and sat on the trunk of his car until police arrived. In interviews at the scene, she admitted to biting and hitting him.
Calls made by the Times to the woman were not returned.
McFadden said he never expected to be arrested. Or fired.
"You know how people can get in these things," he said. "They make up whatever they can to get a judge to process it."
The case was dropped so quickly it never saw a courtroom. Investigators never verified the woman was pregnant, McFadden said.
Nocco said the agency decided to fire McFadden after looking at the case.
"Through our investigation, we don't feel that he should be a member of the Pasco Sheriff's Office," he said. "We have to ensure that the integrity of our agency comes first, whether they've had one day with us or 40 years with us."
McFadden filed for unemployment benefits in December. The DEO denied the application. "The discharge was for misconduct connected with the work," the rejection read.
He filed an appeal in January, saying he didn't understand why he wasn't eligible. This time, the DEO overturned its decision because there was no evidence showing that McFadden violated agency policy.
As he puts it, "being accused of something and being guilty of something are two completely different things."
Lindsay Moore, the sheriff's legal counsel, has since filed a request for review with the DEO. In it, she quotes the agency's general orders which state that deputies are not to commit misdemeanors or felonies. The general order applies, she states, "whether charges are filed or not."
Since his termination, McFadden moved back to his family's house and got rid of his car. He said he relies on his benefits to get by. He said he has wanted to be a deputy since he was 5 years old. He trained years for a position that lasted seven months. He's looking for other jobs, but work in law enforcement doesn't come easy to a man with an arrest record.
"All I have is law enforcement," he said. "I don't have anything else. I felt like I was supposed to learn something from all this. And I feel like I have."
He said he was redirected to secretaries when he called Nocco and other brass in the agency to reason with them in hopes of getting his job back.
Nocco told the Times on Friday he doesn't see that happening.
Contact Alex Orlando at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.