The Commonwealth Casino Commission and the CNMI government should stop doing any favors to Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, according to attorney Mark Scoggins, saying it is not helping the Commonwealth “to constantly cut slack for them.”
Scoggins, who represents several clients who are suing IPI, told CCC commissioners during Thursday’s board meeting at the CCC office in Gualo Rai said that IPI has shown since the start that it has no intention of following its obligations under the law.
At the same time, during a public comment portion of the same meeting, Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said via a video call that IPI circulating a petition for workers to sign, stating that U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona is biased against IPI and calling for the judge’s replacement is “frankly appalling” and that it should not be tolerated.
IPI did not reply when sought for comments.
Manglona informed the parties in a lawsuit against IPI and its former contractor and subcontractor during Friday’s hearing that she received a copy of a letter on IPI’s letterhead. The unsigned letter accused Manglona of being biased against IPI and asked that she be disqualified from presiding over all lawsuits against IPI. Manglona said the letter was submitted to the clerk’s office via mail. The judge ordered IPI general counsel Michael Dotts to meet with his client to confirm if the letter is, in fact, from IPI; otherwise the court will not file it on the docket.
At the CCC meeting, Scoggins said when the government requires an entity to follow the law and follow its agreement, and do what they promise to do, it happens 99 times of 100. “Ninety-nine times out of 100 entities step up to the plate and they do what is required,” said Scoggins, adding that IPI has shown that it has no intention of doing that. “I am asking the commission to hold their feet to the fire and make something happen. And if something can’t happen from IPI, put them on notice. You should order a show-cause that their license is about to be revoked and get somebody else in here who will take care of their responsibilities,” the lawyer said.
Scoggins represents five different companies, contractors, or vendors who are allegedly owed substantial amount of money by IPI.
He said his clients filed different lawsuits against IPI within the last month and a half both in Superior Court and District Court. The lawyer disclosed that they will be filing another lawsuit against IPI within a few days.
Scoggins said he noticed that there is an agenda item on the CCC meeting to discuss an order requiring IPI to settle its accounts. Scoggins said he just want to report to the commission that nothing at all has happened moving toward settling accounts of five Commonwealth companies.
“We all understand the situation with COVID-19. But I want the commission to understand that this problem with unpaid vendor and unpaid contractors goes back to the very beginning of when this entity started,” he said, adding that it goes back to issues of non-payment during the temporary casino facility at Duty Free Shoppers.
Scoggins said IPI has never shown a willingness to pay its vendors and contractors on time. He said each and every one of the clients that he represents are owed by IPI for a period of years, “going back before the world ever heard of COVID-19” at all.
He said he understands that IPI may be unable to pay now because of COVID-19, but the company certainly could pay before when these debts where all incurred.
In her video comments, Sablan said she is troubled by IPI’s management claims to the workers that the payroll issue with IPI employees is somehow the fault of Manglona. Sablan said there is no federal court order freezing IPI’s account. “The real question is whether there is any money in IPI account,” she said.
The lawmaker said Scoggins represents those who are suing IPI but that there are other vendors who have reached out to her because they have not sued IPI but are still owed money. She said she would like to submit to CCC their contact information and claims.
“IPI owes so much in outstanding judgment and payments to employees as well as vendors and as well government, but ultimately the responsibility to settle these obligation rests with IPI,” Sablan said.
The CCC board unanimously adopted Thursday an order requiring IPI to maintain sufficient working capital to pay three months’ worth of payroll in a bank in the CNMI or in the U.S. The commissioners also approved an order requiring IPI to settle all payable public and private accounts and to appoint a chief executive officer.
IPI Treasury director Frances Mafnas and IPI human resources director Redie Dela Cruz disclosed t at the meeting that IPI has just hired a new payroll service provider in Guam to address the payroll problem with IPI employees.
Mafnas said IPI’s payroll account at the Bank of Saipan in the amount of $800,000 was not just being frozen but actually being closed as a result of the District Court’s issuance of a writ of execution.