NC treasurer: State would break law if CMPD chief is rehired after retirement

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina State Treasurer told Channel 9 on Oct. 11 Charlotte's practice of letting officers retire and return to work violates state law.

"Our goal is to sit down and talk to the people at the city who are giving this advice and explain to them why this is not acceptable," North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell said.

This comes after the city announced Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney "will officially retire Jan. 1, 2020, and following a two-month hiatus, resume his role as police chief in March."

The state statute, however, defines retirement as "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 key phrase under review is "no intent or agreement, expressed or implied to return to service."

The treasurer said on Oct. 17 Putney did not break the law by his public announcement, but the state would break the law if it paid for his retirement under those circumstances.

[PAST COVERAGE: CMPD Chief Kerr Putney retiring at end of year, but will return for RNC]

Did the City of Charlotte's announcement that Putney is retiring, taking a hiatus and then returning jeopardize its plan?

The city doesn't appear to think so.

In a statement, the City of Charlotte said: "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 video below, Channel 9's Mark Becker digs into the impact of "hire backs" on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and public safety.

Folwell said members of his staff plan to visit the city and determine how many other officers have been hired back this way.

"This is a big goal with a very short deadline for them to agree to explain to us how this happened across a number of years and the amount of people. And we will have to figure out a remedy for how to deal with that," Folwell said.

That remedy could potentially include recouping funds from officers who have collected retirement benefits.

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"This could potentially be huge. We have a lot of officers that are working in this hire back program," said Chris Kopp, with the Fraternal Order of Police. "There is a huge financial impact these officers could be facing."

Hired back officers mainly work at big events like Panthers games in areas such as traffic and security, or they can be assigned to the Cold Case Unit, solving unsolved homicide and rape cases.

The City of Charlotte canceled a formal press conference following Putney's retirement announcement amid the questions about whether their transition plan is in violation of state law.