What is the Supreme Court Saying about EPA’s Tenure Case?

By: Albert Fania, Contributing Writer

Monrovia-April 2,2024: The heat about violation of tenure positions by President Joseph Boakai has been a major issue since the ascendancy of the new Administration in January 2024. It has been widely reported that the President has violated tenure positions by forceful removal and appointment such as: Environmental Protection Agency amongst others.

The situation raised eyebrows at the newly inducted government when the then Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency Mr. Wilson Tarpeh was replaced by Dr. Emmaunel Yarkpawolo through the President’s appointment.

The matter was later dragged to Court by Professor Tarpeh demanding reinstatement or payment of his balance salaries since his tenure didn’t expire in office. The matter has been before the highest court since awaiting a verdict from that Supreme Body.

Recently the highest decision making body in the Republic of Liberia, the
Supreme Court, listened to both lawyers representing former Acting Executive
Director of the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia, Wilson K. Tarpeh,
and the now Acting Executive Director of the Institution, Dr. Emmanuel K. Urey
Yarkpawolo in the joint chamber of the court .
The court hearing was based on a rate of prohibition filed my Mr. Tarpeh on the workings of the EPA under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Urey Yarkpawolo on
grounds that he Tarpeh , has a remaining of 43 months within “seven years of tenure” .

But on March 26, 2024, before the full bench of the supreme court, lawyers representing both parties argued on different counts.

Tarpeh’s lawyer argued that his client was appointed in 2020 by former president George Weah to run the affairs of the EPA on tenure for the period of seven years.

He disclosed that Tarpeh still has forty-three months of services to run the affairs of
the EPA but was removed by now President Joseph N. Boakai of which Dr.Emmanuel Urey Yarkpawolo was appointed.

Mr. Tarpeh is however, requesting for reinstatement or be paid for his “remaining
43 months”. While the lawyer representing Dr. Urey Yarkpawolo and the EPA argued that Mr. Tarpeh do not have a tenure position as he claimed.
The EPA lawyer indicated that before anyone is appointed on a tenure position at the institution, there shall be what he called “Policy Council” consisting of
different ministries and agencies of which a list of three persons shall be submitted
to the President for appointment before the individual can assumed tenure, adding that in the absence of that anyone appointed will be acting until the formation of the
policy council .

He said, Mr. Tarpeh’s appointment was not done from a list of three names which
should have been submitted by a policy council, stressing, that prior to the appointment of Mr. Tarpeh to the position, there were not a policy council which
has the power to vet and submit the list of three persons to the president for appointment.

“The Policy Council of the EPA has not been reconstituted since the tenures of the majority of its members expired with the change of government from the Sirleaf Administration to the Weah Administration in January 2018”, emphasized the EPA Lawyer.

With the nonexistence of the Policy Council, President Weah appointed and dismissed at his will.

Between 2019 and 2020, President Weah appointed and dismissed Mr. Nathaniel Blama as Interim Executive Director of the EPA.

After Blama’s dismissal, Weah immediately appointed Tarpeh , even though his recommendation for the job was never channeled through the EPA’s Policy
Council recruitment process as mandated by section 16 of the EPA Act.

The EPA’s lawyer reliance was based on Part III, section 16, count 1 and 2 of the Act that establish the EPA, which states “There shall be an Executive Director who is a person with wide environmental knowledge and recognized comment to
sustainable management of the environment, appointed by the President from a list of three names recommended by the Council, except that the President may appoint an interim Executive Director pending the formation of the Council;

2. The Executive Director shall serve for a period of 7 years and shall be eligible for re-
appointment, except that there shall be appointed an interim Executive Director.
We are getting intelligence that former Acting Executive Director, Mr. Wilson
Tarpeh, has been calling some International and local partners informing them that
he has won the case, we believe this act on the part of Mr. Tarpeh is criminal in
nature and he must desist”, EPA/Government Lawyer claim.

Since the March 26 argument between the two parties, Justices of the Supreme Court
are yet to hand-down ruling into the matter. The High Court however told the
parties during the hearing that they will make a ruling in the soonest possible time.

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