‘The people won’


Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), whose request to see the financial statements of casino licensee Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC precipitated the legal tussle between IPI and the Commonwealth Casino Commission, is “ecstatic, elated, and happy” that the U.S. District Court for the CNMI has ruled in favor of the CCC and denied IPI’s bid to prevent the release of the information.

Calling it a win for the people and the Open Government Act, Propst told Saipan Tribune in a statement yesterday that he is ecstatic that the district court denied yesterday the preliminary injunction petition of the casino operator.

The decision lifts the confidentiality of IPI’s annual financial statements, effectively making IPI finances public record through the CCC—including sensitive financial information of subsidiary companies that IPI represents.

IPI said it will appeal Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s decision.

In a statement yesterday, Propst said that IPI essentially “lost today and the people won; transparency wins, the people won.” IPI’s financial audit “will not be redacted. …It is going to be fully available for anyone who wishes to get this information.”

“This information should be shared. Oftentimes, IPI likes to claim this is important to them because these are businesses and…IPI likes to claim they are just like any other business. I disagree,” he told Saipan Tribune. “IPI is not like any other business because they are a monopoly—they are the sole [casino operator licensee], and that is very unusual. They want to be treated like any other business, but they are not,” adding that IPI is not “upholding and following” their casino license agreement.

“That is a grave concern. Furthermore, I am concerned that they didn’t care they were violating Public Law 19-24,” he added.

According to P.L. 19-24, IPI is required to turn over their financials to the CCC if requested for review. According to Propst, everything he asked for was covered and protected by the law.

“My hope moving forward is that this sets precedence, that they [IPI] learn from their lessons and that they embrace transparency and come to the light,” Propst said.

“I have nothing against IPI and I want them to succeed. But they aren’t going to succeed by hiding things from people. They need to be upfront with open dialogue with not just our legislators, but also our people,” he added.

Propst already released IPI’s financial statements in a legislative session. He told Saipan Tribune in a previous interview that he got the financial report from House Gaming Committee chair Rep. Ralph Yumul (R-Saipan) after showing him the OGA request.

“…The public interest weighs in favor of denying the preliminary injunction,” Propst said yesterday, citing Manglona’s 25-page ruling.

In a previous hearing at the CNMI Superior Court, the CCC noted that IPI is not entitled to a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, or even a permanent injunction because they would not have succeeded in preventing CCC, a government agency regulating the casino’s operations, from allowing public inspection of the information they collected.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.
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