Police chief’s retirement plan possibly in violation of state statute

Police chief’s retirement plan possibly in violation of state statute

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - This week, the City of Charlotte announced Chief Kerr Putney with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department would retire at the end of this year.

But as part of his unconventional retirement, the city also announced he would be hired back in March to serve as chief through the Republican National Convention and then would step down again September 1, 2020. WBTV has learned this plan could be in violation of a state statute regarding the definition of retirement.

The statue reads: “"Retirement” under this Article shall mean the commencement of monthly retirement benefits, along with the termination of employment and the complete separation from active service with no intent or agreement, expressed or implied, to return to service. A retirement allowance under the provisions of this Article may only be granted upon retirement of a member."

In short, this statute says the state can’t pay out retirement benefits until the complete separation with no plans to return.

On Wednesday, the state treasurer told WBTV’s Paige Pauroso that Chief Putney’s plan to retire and then come back to work as chief is against the law. There is a process for retired employees to come back to work, but the state treasurer says there are restrictions including the employee can only work part time.

The state treasurer says this was based on the fact that the city announced their plans for him to return. The statute says you can’t have “an intent to return to service.”

We’ve reached out to the police department for comment on this statute, as a press conference regarding Putney’s retirement, originally scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 9, has been canceled.

The City of Charlotte provided this statement Tuesday evening:

“The intention for our transition plan is a solution that is in the best interests of the city, the residents of Charlotte and Chief Kerr Putney. There is no intent to circumvent the law. The statute does not prohibit hiring back a retiree, which is a widely accepted practice across the country. The statute defines retirement but does not define the terms by which a retiree may return for limited service. We plan to have Chief Putney return to the city in 2020 to run the day-to-day operations of our police department and lead security efforts surrounding the Republican National Convention next summer, while following all rules for retiree hire-backs. We will seek further clarification from the North Carolina retirement system.”
City of Charlotte

Charlotte’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police said Chief Putney’s retirement is just one of many changes the department could see in the next year or so. A spokesperson for the FOP said there are several deputy and assistant chiefs who are close to retirement.

“There’s going to be a lot of change. Some good, some bad, but regardless the city is going to be fine,” said Chris Kopp with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police.

The first known change would be Chief Putney’s plans to retire and then come back for the RNC, just to retire again. It seems to be an unconventional retirement plan, but makes more sense to a former officer.

“Understand the RNC is a very large event,” said Kopp. “Chief Putney was involved with the DNC so having that leadership that’s gone through this before is going to be crucial for the safety of the event and the safety of the community.”

Kopp says although there could be more retirements announced among high ranking officers, he said the department is in capable hands, no matter who is leading it.

“CMPD has 1,800 officers. 1,800 people aren’t retiring all at once," he said. "I understand that the chief who makes the ultimate decision on a lot of things in the department is going to be fluctuating and changing, but the hard working officers who have been there for many years are still going to be there. They’re still in good hands with the city.”

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