‘IF I HAVE TO GO TO JAIL FOR PAYING OUR EMPLOYEES FIRST’

‘That’s a chance I’ll take’

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Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC chief executive officer Donald Browne says that he will accept incarceration if that is what it takes to put IPI employees’ payrolls first.

In a statement to Saipan Tribune in response to the motion for his incarceration by Aaron Halegua, the lawyer of seven former construction workers who are suing IPI, Browne said that whenever IPI receives money from its parent company, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited, he prioritizes paying employees first.

“Whenever we receive funding from our parent company to assist our Saipan operation and the funds are insufficient to cover all outstanding liabilities, I will always choose to authorize payment of the payroll of our hardworking employees before paying other obligations such as millionaire attorney’s legal fees. Sanctions are a priority, but a second priority,” he said.

Browne added that he’ll oblige if the court orders his incarceration if it means being able to authorize payroll payments.

“If I have to go to jail for paying our employees first before paying millionaires, then that’s a chance I’ll have to take. Our great employees who provide unwavering support through all the of the recent adversity are more deserving,” he said.

Browne said that paying IPI employees is IPI’s first priority, especially with the casino’s continued closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[Halegua] and [Bruce Berline] are very well aware that we are struggling to pay employees during our closure. They may feel that paying them is a higher priority than paying our employees [but] they are mistaken,” he said.

Browne said Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited may have the means to pay court sanctions to keep him from being jailed, but that is still unsure.

“The New York attorney [Halegua] is a master manipulator of the truth and will spin things anyway he can to get attention. He’s trying to use me as a pawn to force the company to act….Our parent company, IPIH, may find some funding to pay the sanctions so that I’m not incarcerated, but I’m not sure. Being incarcerated would be sort of hard to explain to my 4-year-old daughter and 4-month-old son,” he said.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, Halegua asked the court to order IPI to explain why its CEO, Browne, should not be jailed for failing to satisfy the judgment against the company.

Halegua argued that Browne, specifically, should be held in contempt because he knew about the order[s], he controls IPI, and he failed to ensure IPI’s compliance.

On top of the incarceration of its CEO, other sanctions that Halegua suggested is for IPI to be held in contempt of court, plus additional contempt sanctions be imposed if IPI fails to comply, again, if the court issues an order to show cause.

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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