CUI, IPI ARE FOUND IN CONTEMPT

1-week stop-work order vs IPI

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Posted on Jan 22 2021

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The U.S District Court for the NMI has ordered Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC to cease operations and all construction work for a week—except for the department working on payroll and security—after ruling in favor of the U.S. Department of Labor in its petition to find IPI and its officials in contempt.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Mangloña found IPI and its board chair, Cui Li Jie, in contempt but did not push through with her threat to issue a bench warrant for Cui’s arrest after Cui showed up at the U.S. Courthouse during yesterday’s hearing on the USDOL petition.

Manglona ordered a one week stop-work order for all IPI employees effective immediately to ensure IPI complies with the court sanctions, which includes paying in full the last few months of payrolls totaling over $3 million, restoring power and water to employee housing, and providing food to employees residing in company housing.

The only ones exempted from the stop-work order, Manglona said, are administrative employees in charge of processing and issuing payrolls and property security.

Manglona said the stop-work order will be lifted if, after one week, IPI can prove that they have complied with the court-imposed sanctions pursuant to finding IPI and its officials in contempt, or if IPI has paid in full the last five employee payrolls and IPI has restored daily necessities they have taken away from their employees like power and water.

“Their daily lives must be prioritized,” Manglona said, referring to IPI employees.

Manglona ordered IPI and Cui to return to court on Jan. 28, 2020 for a status conference to determine if IPI has complied and whether or not to lift the stop-work order.

According to Manglona, she granted USDOL senior attorney Charles Song’s motion for a stop-work order because, with the many lawsuits IPI currently faces, she is familiar with IPI’s “patterns” and that they tend to react by “making promises” but they don’t show actions.

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC chair Cui Li Jie, in red, exits the U.S Courthouse following a hearing where she and IPI were found in contempt pursuant to a petition filed by the U.S. Department of Labor. (KIMBERLY A. BAUTISTA)

“Sanctions must immediately be imposed. Jail time will not coerce them. I will only accept actions. We want IPI to succeed but not when they’re stepping on human lives,” she said.

Aside from paying payrolls and restoring company housing amenities, Manglona also ordered IPI to pay in full the $1.8 million in back wages owed USDOL, pursuant to the consent judgement they violated.

Michael Dotts and Juan Lizama, on behalf of IPI and Cui, admitted that they are in contempt for failure to comply.

The court dismissed former IPI CEO Donald Browne from the USDOL suit.

Dotts apprised the court that a one week-stop order is acceptable and further apprised the court that staff housing and food are priorities.

Dotts and Lizama both assured the court that IPI has received funding and will pay all owed payroll and restore housing amenities by today.

Manglona ordered Dotts to file a status report proving that payroll has been paid in full and that power and water has been restored no later than Jan. 22, 2021, at 12pm.

At around 4pm yesterday, a flock of IPI employees crowded outside the IPI Human Resources office on Capitol Hill to pick up their payroll checks.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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