State treasurer says Chief Putney’s retirement plan is in violation of law

State treasurer says Chief Putney’s retirement plan is in violation of law

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina state treasurer says the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief’s plan to retire - and then return to work just a few months later - is against the law.

Chief Kerr Putney had planned on coming back for a few months to help the city through the Republican National Convention. The City of Charlotte released a statement saying they had no intention of circumventing the law and now is working to get clarification about this from the state.

The state treasurer said the plan is made pretty clear in the city’s press release and that the plan is violating the state statute.

“By the press release, when there was an agreement for a person to leave work and come back to work, that violates the law," said state treasurer Dale Folwell.

The statute in question is as follows:

“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.

The city announced Monday Chief Putney would retire Jan. 1, of 2020, take a short break and then come back as Chief to lead the department through the Republican National Convention, before stepping down again.

But the state Treasurer said that’s not going to work.

“He already announced his decision to come back and that sort of stops the process," said Folwell.

The city sent us this statement after WBTV asked about the statute.

“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.”

In the statement from the City of Charlotte, it says the statute doesn’t show the process of a how a retiree could be hired back. So we asked the treasurer.

“What we can tell you there has been a process in place, that’s true yesterday, today and tomorrow, that people can return to work and it involves three major requirements," he said.

Those requirements are time away from the work place, a limit on earnings to 50 percent of pay and the person has to work less than 1,000 hours a year. Folwell said essentially this means part time.

The retirement plan as of now involves Chief Putney taking back the full-time duties of chief.

“You can’t be put back in a position full time and then say you’re only going to work half the hours.”

Folwell said they are now investigating if the City of Charlotte allowed other state employees to retire in the same manner as this plan.

The city cancelled a scheduled press conference on Wednesday so they could seek clarifications from the state retirement system, leaving questions about who will lead the department through the RNC.

“I’d hope based on this new information that he’d remain employed for this very important responsibility, not only to the city of Charlotte, but the state of North Carolina and the country as a whole,” Folwell said.

On Tuesday, WBTV requested a copy of Chief Putney’s original employment contract and still have not received a copy.

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