Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto risks 6-month jail term
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto is facing a six-month jail term over contempt of court in a case filed by county employees after he, alongside three other top Bomet County Government officials, failed to appear before the Employment and Labour Relations court on Wednesday for the second time to answer to allegations of failing to pay county workers.
In the case filed by 287 employees of the Bomet County Government, Ruto is accused of failing to honor a court order issued in December directing them to release the workers’ November salaries within seven days.
According to Judge Njagi Marete, the case was adjourned until Thursday with the court issuing fresh summons to Ruto directing him to appear before the court or face a six-month civil jail term for contempt.
The other officials charged alongside Governor Ruto are acting County Secretary Kilelson Mutai, County Human Resource Director Ann Turgut and Payroll Manager Moses Rono.
On December 16 2015, Justice Marete directed the county government to release the payment for the workers, who had sued them through the Kenya County Government Workers Union (KCGWU) on December 8.
The order came following fruitful negotiations between Governor Ruto and the union after which the two sides agreed that the money would be paid out by November 24, just in time for the workers to use it over the Christmas period.
KCGWU however moved back to court on January 28 after the county government failed to honour the consent that had been reached and ignored the ruling by Justice Marete.
In December last year, KCGWU charged Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, acting County Secretary Kilelson Mutai, County Human Resource Director Ann Turgut and Payroll Manager Moses Rono been charged for being in contempt of court after they failed to pay the November salaries.
However, following the successful consent talks, KCGWU through lawyer Brian Otieno agreed to withdraw the contempt suit against the four officials.
Otieno had accused the four officials of orchestrating the removal of the workers from the payroll despite court orders barring them from interfering with any move to dispossess them of their jobs.
Counsel for Bomet County Andrew Matwere defended the county government officials, arguing that their salaries had been withheld after the workers allegedly failed to report for duty.
Matwere dismissed claims that his clients had disobeyed court orders, arguing that no employees had either been struck off the payroll or relieved of their duties as claimed by the applicants’ lawyer.
After negotiations, the two sides reached consent on several issues which they presented before Justice Marete and which were eventually adopted as the orders of the court.
The aggrieved employees had urged the court to commit the four officials to civil jail or to a prison term of not more than six months if found guilty of contempt of court for defying court orders issued in August and September barring them from interfering with their jobs.
Justice Marete also directed the aggrieved workers to report to their various work stations and carry out the duties assigned to them by the Human Resource Department.
By Bernard Rotich
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