CCC CONCURS WITH CHAMBER
The Commonwealth Casino Commission agrees with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce that Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC must be held accountable to the same culture of compliance with labor laws and other regulations, like all other businesses in the CNMI.
CCC board chair Edward C. Deleon Guerrero and acting CCC executive director Andrew Yeom acknowledged the concerns raised by the Chamber and its members about IPI’s actions or inactions, saying that while CCC is tasked with seeing that IPI delivers on its contractual agreements, CCC generally does not have the authority to enforce federal labor laws.
Last Tuesday, Chamber president Velma M. Palacios urged CCC in a letter to hold IPI accountable for violations of labor laws, wage and hour laws, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations. Palacios said IPI should be held to the same standards as the rest of the business community in practicing good corporate citizenry and governance.
In their response letter Thursday to Palacios, Deleon Guerrero and Yeom assured the Chamber and its members that actions are being taken but they also pointed both the federal and CNMI Department of Labor have primary enforcement authority regarding most issues involving labor. They noted that within this calendar year, the CCC executive director has filed five complaints with the CCC against IPI alleging violations of laws, regulations, and orders.
In fact, they said, Yeom filed a complaint last Sept. 1, alleging IPI’s inability or unwillingness to timely pay its employees as an unsuitable method of operation pursuant to the Commonwealth Casino Regulations.
Furthermore, Deleon Guerrero and Yeom said, another CCC complaint was filed last Sept. 24 against IPI based on Yeom’s allegations that IPI did not settle in full its payables owed to all vendors, including manpower and construction agencies, among others. The two CCC officials disclosed that CCC is currently setting up the process to conduct administrative hearings on all five complaints against IPI. They said the hearings will proceed beginning January 2021.
“This process is required by the gaming law and the Administrative Procedures Act, which grants the commission the authority to impose sanctions should it be required,” Deleon Guerrero and Yeom said.
Sanctions may include regulatory “suspension” of the gaming license and/or “revocation” of its casino license.
IPI is contesting all the complaints.
Deleon Guerrero and Yeom said that IPI right now enjoys the presumption that it is not responsible for any violations.
Palacios asked the CCC to hold IPI accountable in making right by their employees, their creditors, their vendors, and complete Phase 1 of their casino/resort project in Garapan, as was agreed upon in their initial $7-billion investment.
“This investment was a promise to our community, and it ensures our collective success,” said Palacios.
In IPI’s reply to the Chamber’s concerns, IPI chief executive officer Donald Browne said that, to date, IPI has invested around $1 billion in the CNMI and paid over $300 million in taxes and fees to the government, more than all of the Chamber members combined.
“It’s easy to pick on businesses when they’re struggling. Rational thinkers know well that the CNMI has been insulated from the effects of the pandemic due to the federal government bailout,” Browne said, adding that IPI has not received even $1 in federal assistance.
Browne said they are not giving up without doing everything they can to ensure their existence and the existence of all businesses in the CNMI.
The Chamber is the largest business-civic membership association in the CNMI.