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State Treasurer Says His View On CMPD Chief's Retirement Has 'Absolutely Not' Changed

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney
Michael Falero
Kerr Putney's plan to retire at the end of 2019 and return to oversee the 2020 RNC is still being questioned.

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell says he has "absolutely not" changed his opinion that CMPD Chief Kerr Putney can't return to work two months after retiring and continue to collect his pension.  

Charlotte city attorney Patrick Baker sent to Folwell an opinion Wednesday from the North Carolina firm of Poyner Spruill. That opinion argues that Putney's plan to retire Jan. 1 and return in March is OK.

He would return as chief on a part-time basis, and work through the 2020 Republican National Convention in August. After that, he would retire again.

Poyner Spruill said that state and local retirement policy "permits a temporary hireback after a break in service."

"Absolutely not," Folwell said, adding that he's also relying on the opinion of tax attorneys in the treasurer's office. He said it would be "careless" to go against their advice.

Folwell added that the city "went out got a legal opinion on the plan that they don't have the responsbility for. Our legal opinions are coming from the attorneys, both in Washington and here in the treasurer's office who have had, and still have the responsibility for, administering the plan."

The city announced Putney's retirement plan on Oct. 7.  As part of Putney's retirement plan, he would return to work in March, and work no more than 1,000 hours in 2020.  By staying under 1,000 hours, Putney would still be a part-time employee, and would be eligible for retirement and a salary with the city.

But after the announcement, Folwell said the plan violated a state statute that defines retirement, which says that a public employee can't 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 in October.

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.

Putney has said he's being penalized for being transparent in his intentions.

Baker told WFAE Thursday that he believes Putney still plans on retiring on Jan. 1 -- even if he can't come back while drawing his retirement.

“Well, chief’s going to retire on January 1, 2020,” Baker said. “And unless there’s a change of that position, then he won’t be here for the RNC.”

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.