‘Independent legal opinion’ produced in large part by former longtime city attorney

?Independent legal opinion? produced in large part by former longtime city attorney

CHARLOTTE — As the city of Charlotte and State Treasurer Dale Folwell battled over Police Chief Kerr Putney's retirement plans, the city hired a Charlotte legal firm to provide an independent legal opinion.

Under contract by the city of Charlotte, legal firm, Poyner Spruill, concluded that state law allows Putney to retire and then be rehired in a temporary role.

What the city of Charlotte didn't disclose is that one of the people who played a key role in that independent legal opinion was former city attorney, Bob Hagemann.

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Hagemann’s involvement in the report was not widely known until a records request by Eyewitness News reporter Joe Bruno.

In a phone interview with Bruno Friday afternoon, current city attorney Patrick Baker defended the selection of Poyner Spruill and Hagemann's involvement.

"I reached out to Bob for a couple of reasons. I know his firm does a good bit of tax and retirement work. I was aware of that," Baker said. "We reached out to Poyner and Spruill, in part, because I have a connection with Bob and primarily because this firm has done so much of this work as it relates to retirement and how retirement systems interact with the IRS code."

Records obtained by Channel 9 show how involved Hagemann was with the opinion.

Two weeks before the city of Charlotte released the opinion, Hagemann sent Baker the terms of representation.

Invoices obtained by Channel 9 show the city paid the firm $12,860.93 including $4,970 for Hagemann's work. Hagemann billed the city of Charlotte for $14.20 hours of work at $350 an hour. Of the four partners billed, Hagemann worked the most hours, per the invoices.

According to the invoices, Hagemann's work included research, conference calls and drafting and finalizing the memo.

On Nov. 6, the city released that memo and on that document three partners of Poyner Spruill were listed: Kelsey Mayo, Edwin Speas and Jesse St. Cyr. Despite drafting and finalizing the memo, hiss name was not included in the document.

"I was not involved in telling them whose name should be on what," Baker said. "Who signed what and how they signed it, was up to them. I didn't tell them how to go about doing that."

Hagemann did not answer questions emailed to him by Channel 9.

Despite Hagemann's involvement, the city called the document an independent legal opinion. When originally asked by Bruno, Baker questioned that categorization.

"Is it still fair to call this an independent review if the former city attorney was heavily involved in its production?" Bruno asked.

"I am not sure if I would use the words independent or third party but Bob wasn't involved in Kerr Putney's decision to retire," Baker said.

When questioned again by Bruno, Baker walked those comments back, saying it doesn't require somebody who knows nothing about the parties to be independent.

"I would still stick to the concept that it was independent because the firm had no involvement in the decision-making that was put out there," he said.

Folwell did not change his opinion on the legality of Putney’s plans for retirement. Putney eventually decided to postpone his retirement until after the Republican National Convention.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney retiring at end of year, but will return for RNC