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Weekly News Roundup: Kerr Putney’s Retirement Plan Raises Legal Questions

City Announces CMPD Chief Transitional Plans, Raising Questions About Legalities

Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones announced on Monday that CMPD Chief Kerr Putney will retire at the end of the year, then return two months later and lead the department yet again in the lead-up to and during the Republican National Convention, which will be held in Charlotte in August of next year.  According to Putney’s plan, he would then retire for good after the convention and a permanent replacement would be named.

“Chief Putney made a commitment to Charlotte to lead our security efforts during the RNC and I know that is important to him,” Jones stated in a press release. “Because of his experience with the city’s efforts for the DNC in 2012 and his involvement with the current RNC planning, I want him to return and believe this approach gives us the best opportunity to host a more successful RNC for our residents, business community and visitors while also helping Chief Putney meet his personal commitments.”

That plan, however, was quickly called into question by state officials, who say it is against North Carolina law. According to a state statute that defines retirement, public employees cannot collect a pension until a “complete separation from active service with no intent or agreement, expressed or implied, to return to service” has occurred.

Confusion over the legal implications behind Putney’s plans led city leaders to cancel a press conference about the announcement scheduled for Wednesday morning, though the city did release a statement that read: “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.”

State treasurer Dale Folwell has told multiple media outlets that he believes Putney’s plan violates the statute, and has even stated that he plans to look into whether CMPD has been violating that statute regularly with its practices regarding rehiring retired police officers.

Putney joined CMPD in 1992 as a patrol officer, working his way up through the ranks, and was promoted to deputy chief of police in 2007. He was sworn in as Charlotte’s chief of police on July 1, 2015, replacing former chief Rodney Monroe.

Fourteen Armed Robbery Arrests Made in North and South Charlotte

CMPD arrested a bevy of armed robbery suspects following separate incidents in north and south Charlotte over the last week.

On Monday, the department announced the arrest of five teenagers and a 15-year-old minor who had allegedly been conspiring to rob Hispanic residents of the Maple Run Apartments in the Hidden Valley area. According to a police report, two potential victims saw the group of men wearing masks and brandishing what the victims believed to be guns near the complex’s leasing office. The two men ran to a nearby apartment and called police, who responded and confronted the group of suspects.

Two suspects stopped on command, while four others fled, though officers eventually found them all without incident. Police found three masks on the scene, but did not locate any guns. Police arrested Vet Ksor, 19; Oscar Rebollar-Velasquez, 16; Andy Giron, 16; Erixon Garcia, 17; and 17-year-old Elvis Ortiz and charged them with felony conspiracy to commit armed robbery. The 15-year-old suspect was also charged with felony conspiracy to commit armed robbery before being transferred to the Cabarrus Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Police also arrested five suspects after responding to an armed robbery in progress on Sharon Lakes Drive in the Starmount Forest area of south Charlotte on Monday. Officers say those suspects were also targeting Hispanic victims in the community.

Officers responded to the call at 3:35 p.m. on Monday and, with the help of the Aviation Unit, were able to find the suspect vehicle fleeing the scene within four minutes. Patrol units eventually stopped the car and arrested five suspects. They found two pistols, a BB gun and three ski masks in the car, along with property belonging to the victim.

Nathaniel Williams II (Photo courtesy of MCSO)

Officers arrested Se’Jour Frederick, 19; Nathaniel Williams II, 20; Brandon Foster, 18; and Christian Smith, 18, and charged them with robbery with a dangerous weapon, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of stolen property. The fifth suspect, 18-year-old Brandon Ellison, was charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of stolen property. 

On Thursday, CMPD announced the arrest of three armed robbery suspects who they say shot a man during a robbery attempt in north Charlotte. According to the report, officers met with the victim as he was being treated for a gunshot wound at CMC-University on North Tryon Street. The victim told officers he was robbed by three men, one of whom shot him in the right arm.

Detectives were able to locate three suspects, who were all wearing electronic monitoring devices that allowed CMPD’s Real Time Crime Center to determine that all they were at the scene of the robbery together. Police arrested 22-year-old Chaunquarius Robinson, 21-year-old Elijah Mingo and 19-year-old Nijel Hitchcock for their involvement in the robbery.

According to CMPD, Robinson was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon. He has prior charges for larceny, possession of a firearm by a felon, stolen vehicle and discharging a weapon into an occupied property. Mingo was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm by a felon, discharging a firearm in city limits, injury to property and resist/obstruct/delay. He has prior charges for breaking and/or entering and trafficking drugs. Hitchcock was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a robbery with a dangerous weapon and resist/obstruct/delay. He has prior charges for larceny of vehicle, robbery with a dangerous weapon and a stolen firearm.

Massive Water Main Break Shuts Down Businesses in Rock Hill

A boil water advisory on Rock Hill was lifted on Friday, two days after a 70-year-old water main at a  water treatment plant broke, spilling 30 million gallons of water and leaving 125,000 York County residents without water or with low water pressure. Many businesses in the area were also forced to close their doors due to the water main break, which occurred on Wednesday.

Teams were able to expose the 20-inch pipe — which city leaders said was installed in 1949 and broke due to wear over time — to begin working on repairs by 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday. Repairs were reportedly completed by 1 a.m. on Thursday, and on Friday, water was deemed safe for drinking and other uses. The water main had been scheduled for replacement in 18 months.

All York County school districts closed on Thursday due to the water main break, but were back in session on Friday.

Outbreak at Mountain State Fair Kills Two, Affects More Than 100

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) confirmed on Thursday that two people had died of Legionnaire’s disease after being exposed to it at the NC Mountain State Fair in Fletcher in September. The department’s Division of Public Health confirmed 126 cases of Legionnaires’ disease and eight cases of Pontiac Fever believed to have been contracted during the last five days of the state fair. Eighty-eight people were hospitalized due to the disease.

The N.C. Mountain State Fair.

The outbreak is believed to have begun in a hot tub exhibit in the Davis Event Center of the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher, which is 100 miles west of Charlotte and just south of Asheville. The fair took place between Sept. 6-15.

According to a press release from the NCDHHS, hot tubs are a well-established source of aerosolized water exposure to Legionella bacteria, and have been associated with previous Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks nationally and internationally. Cases have been confirmed among residents across North Carolina and in different states who attended the fair, though it’s unclear how many patients, if any, live in Mecklenburg County.

Legionnaires’ disease brings symptoms similar to pneumonia. Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, but can become a health concern when they grow and spread in human-made building water systems like hot-water tanks, cooling towers of air-conditioning systems, decorative fountains and hot tubs or spas that aren’t maintained properly.

Officials recommend that if you attended the fair and have been experiencing cough, fever or shortness of breath, that you contact your healthcare provider immediately.

No Homicides in Charlotte This Week

As of this morning, no new homicides occurred in Charlotte during the week. However, since the publication of our last Weekly News Roundup, 74-year-old John Holaday died of wounds he suffered as an innocent bystander in a shooting that stemmed from a fight at the Epicentre on Monday, Sept. 30. Holaday was pronounced dead on Saturday, Oct. 5, putting the total number of homicides in Charlotte this year at 83. Raheem Shacklette, 16, has been charged for Holaday’s murder.

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