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City Says Outside Counsel OKs CMPD Chief Putney's Retirement Plan

Kerr Putney
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney plans to retire at the end of 2019 and return in March 2020 to lead the department through the RNC.

The city of Charlotte says an outside counsel’s review of CMPD Chief Kerr Putney’s retirement plans supports its contention that it does not violate state law, despite the North Carolina State Treasurer's expressed concern that it does.

City Attorney Patrick Baker sent an opinion Wednesday from the North Carolina firm of Poyner Spruill to state Treasurer Dale Folwell, who has said Putney's plan to retire at the end of the calendar year and return in March 2020 to lead the department through the Republican National Convention would be at odds with a state law.

That law says a public employee can only collect a pension after "complete separation from active service with no intent or agreement, expressed or implied, to return to service."

Poyner Spruill said that Putney's plan, which will include a six-month rehiring to oversee the RNC, is allowed because he will be a temporary employee.

State and local retirement policy “permits a temporary hireback after a break in service,” the firm wrote.

Putney announced his retirement Oct. 7 and immediately drew criticism from Folwell, among others, who said the CMPD chief’s retirement plan would violate a state statute that says a public employee cannot express “an intent to return to work” and still draw a pension.

"Anytime that there is an intent to return to work, and when it's that well-publicized, then a retirement cannot go forward," Folwell told WFAE.

As treasurer, Folwell oversees the state’s Retirement Systems, which pays out retirement benefits to public employees. He said the state statute in question has been in place for more than four decades and is in line with federal guidelines from the Internal Revenue Service.

"The law is meant to prevent the state pension plan, which is one of the largest pools of public capital in the world, of being in violation of the federal Internal Revenue Service guidelines on return-to-work policies," he said.

Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.