Maui County is settling a federal lawsuit alleging unconstitutional interference with a Facebook page.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii says settlement terms include the county paying $25,000 in attorneys' fees and damages and re-writing its anti-harassment policy.
Part-time county employee Neldon Mamuad filed a lawsuit in March claiming he was pressured to stop working on a Facebook page devoted to posts about traffic and other Maui news. Mamuad claims the county violated his free speech rights by trying to censor the "MAUIWatch" page, which he worked on during his free time.
According to court records, the settlement was reached Thursday. There are also assurances that disciplinary documentation related to the complaint of cyber-bullying would not be kept in Mauad's personnel file.
ACLU attorney Daniel Gluck says the settlement reaffirms government employees and volunteers can express themselves without fear of retaliation.
The county says the lawsuit was limited to Mamuad's harassment of fellow county employee and Maui police officer Keith Taguma. Officer Taguma filed a formal complaint against Mamuad notifying the county that he felt harassed by the "TagumaWatch" Facebook page. Officer Taguma never consented to the use of his name or likeness by Mamuad, according to Maui County officials.
"The County of Maui is pleased that this case has concluded, and that a compromise has been reached," said Communications Director Rod Antone. "However, the County remains firm in its stance that Mr. Mamuad should not have been allowed to conduct a personal vendetta against Officer Taguma, then proceed to lie about his intent by saying it was all in the name of the First Amendment. That sort of blatant disregard for the truth goes against everything the First Amendment stands for in the first place. Certainly the ACLU took this into account, which is why they agreed to settle and we appreciate that."