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Animal Control firing upheld

A state hearing officer has denied Hank Baggett's request for unemployment compensation, upholding Citrus County's decision to fire the former Animal Control director in May for work-related misconduct.

Carol D. Styles, appeals referee for the Agency for Workforce Innovation, ruled July 18 that Baggett falsified county records by writing that he "removed" a feral cat that had been stranded up a tree for several days. In fact, Baggett shot and killed the cat, believing it was in distress.

"The record shows that (Baggett) was aware that the decision he made to shoot the cat would probably cause a concern with certain support groups and documented a softer term in the employer's log," Styles wrote in the two-page ruling. "Further, the record shows that (Baggett) was aware that he wasn't recording accurate information and did not make the employer aware until it became a concern.

"Therefore, (Baggett's) contention that the terms "shooting' and "removing' are the same is respectfully not accepted," Styles wrote.

Under state law, a person cannot receive unemployment compensation if he was fired for work-related misconduct. County policies allow employees to be disciplined, and even fired, for falsifying or altering county records.

County officials, who would have paid for the unemployment compensation through payroll taxes, were pleased with Styles' ruling.

"The decision (to fire Baggett) was a difficult one," County Administrator Richard Wesch said. "However, I believe it was the correct decision, and (the) order vindicates and supports the decision as being the proper one."

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