Former Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC chief executive officer Donald Browne must still appear before the U.S. District Court for the NMI tomorrow despite having renounced his role as CEO.
U.S District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has ordered Browne, along with IPI’s chair Cui Li Jie, to appear before the court tomorrow for the hearing on the U.S. Department of Labor’s petition for contempt even though he no longer serves as its CEO.
In his official response and opposition to USDOL’s petition to find IPI’s officials in contempt for violating a previous consent judgment, Browne said he officially resigned as CEO on Dec. 3, 2020. Effective Dec. 17, 2020, Browne said he was no longer IPI CEO but he extended his term to Dec. 22 so that he could represent IPI in one last Commonwealth Casino Commission public hearing.
On Dec. 23, 2020, Browne said he returned to his former position of assisting the security and surveillance team and no longer had authority over the finances and administration of IPI.
In his opposition letter, Browne denied any knowledge of a consent judgment or an amended consent judgment that existed prior to Dec. 4, 2020.
“Subsequent to my learning about the amended consent judgment against IPI and IPI Holdings Limited on Dec. 4, I learned that in 2019, IPIHL had hired a law firm in the mainland called Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, LLC for this matter. IPI and IPIHL were represented by Eugene Sullivan from that law firm. I had never spoken with Eugene Sullivan nor had any involvement with this case until Dec. 4,” Browne said.
Browne said it was never his intention to violate the consent judgment whose existence he did not know.
“The consent judgment was a matter handled long before I became CEO and involved off-island attorneys who I do not know. I only allowed employees to work when IPI was not paying them because I believed that they would be paid all of their back wages by Dec. 14, and then that they would be paid by Christmas. I am still hopeful that all the wages owed to the employees, including to myself, will be paid shortly,” Browne said.
His motion included 20 letters from IPI employees supporting him.
Browne said it was only on the day he resigned that he was forwarded a message from USDOL regarding the first amended consent judgment executed on June 12, 2020.
In its eight-page petition for contempt and for an order for IPI to show cause, USDOL stated that IPI created a “humanitarian crisis” in the CNMI and accused IPI executives of unlawfully requiring stranded employees to work without pay during a global pandemic, and failing to meet the workers’ basic necessities or provide for their return to their home countries.