Governor Barasa loses bid to strike out petition challenging removal of service board

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa addresses members of the public shortly after inspecting the ongoing construction of the Shivakala bridge in Shirere ward, Lurambi constituency on January 13, 2024. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa has lost bid to strike out a petition filed by the County Public Service Board (CPSB) challenging their removal from office. 

Barasa through his lawyer Patrick Lutta wanted the Labour and Industrial Relations Court to dismiss the petition on technicalities. 

"We don't have a petition here. Just strike out the petition that is before you because  it is not signed," Mr Lutta told the court

Lutta said the documents that were served by the board members were not signed and the petitioner never made the efforts to clear the mess.

The lawyer went ahead to ask the presiding Judge Jemimah Keli to confirm with her documents whether they were signed.

"My documents are not signed," Judge Keli responded, which opened a series of arguments.

In a rebuttal, Calistus Shifwoka, the lead lawyer representing Service Board members opposed the assertions.

"We filed the petition on December 20, 2023 and at the time of filing, the court assistant was present and can confirm that all the documents were filed in compliance with the law," said Mr Shifwoka

He went on; "We do not see any substantial reason why the respondents (Governor and county government) will allege that the copies are un-signed. We are certain and consistent that the documents before you are fully compliant with the law." 

He said the court 'must confine itself' to the initial documents the duty Judge (Stephen Radido) relied on in issuing orders that barred the governor from sacking the board members.

"In fact, they (respondents) have come in court with unclean hands for disobeying a court order. They have stopped salaries for the board members and locked their offices. That's contempt of court," Shifwoka told the court.

Kennedy Okongo, the lawyer representing the County Assembly of Kakamega also said the documents were not signed praying the petitioned soul be dismissed.

The confusion forced Judge Keli to adjourn the heated court session for 15 minutes so that the 'a copy of the petition in the court registry' can be printed. 

When the court session resumed, it was established that the petition was properly filed, stamped and had all the requisite signatures. 

"We will not strike out the petition despite the existence of unsigned documents in the court. The petition that was filed electronically shall take precedence as it was filed properly," ruled Judge Keli

Justice Keli further extended orders barring Governor Barasa from sacking the board members until a ruling on the matter is made. 

She also directed the parties to appear before her on February 9(Friday) for mentioning of the case and also give a date for the ruling on the petition.

Catherine Omweno (Chairperson) and members Stanley Were, Ralph Wangatiah, and Joel Omukoko were impeached on December 14, last year by the County Assembly. Vice-chair Ambrose Subayi and member Sylvia Otunga survived.

The four obtained the orders from Justice Stephen Radido of Kisumu after they sued the county government, governor, county assembly and county secretary on a certificate of urgency for what they termed as unfair sacking.

The court in Kakamega was on recess then. Radido directed Barasa, the county assembly, county secretary and Dennis Muhanda who sponsored their impeachment petition to file responses, including preliminary objections to both motion and petition, within 15 days of service which lapsed some three weeks ago.

Among other grounds to protect their jobs, they argued that their sacking was premeditated as an advertisement to replace them ran in a newspaper a few hours after MCAs impeached them in a session that ended at 8 pm on December 14 last year. The December 15 advert was later on revoked by the county in a subsequent advert on December 16.

Governor Barasa and the county secretary, after receiving the said resolutions before being communicated to the petitioners (board), have purported to advertise the positions in the local dailies of December 15, yet the resolutions were made on December 14, at 10.30 pm,” they argued

The four also challenged their removal from office saying the process was illegal and politically instigated.

“The second respondent (county assembly) in a clandestine, illegal and irregular sitting, session and proceeding on December 14 contrary to requirements of Article 251 of the Constitution purported to resolve, recommend and remove from office chairperson and members of the board,” they say in their court papers 

The papers further read: “The respondents are poised to install a new chairperson and members of CPSB, through a sham process, given the illegal and unprocedural advertisement already in circulation. They will do this any time from this moment, without the petitioners receiving communication of the new development.”