WAILUKU, Maui — A Maui county liquor commissioner is suing the county, claiming he’s being pressured to stop working on a Facebook page that includes posts about traffic and other news on the island.
Neldon Mamuad filed a lawsuit in federal court earlier this month alleging the county is violating his First Amendment rights. The lawsuit says Mamuad is one of the administrators of the “MAUIWatch” page. The lawsuit claims Mamuad is being pressured to take down the page and that he has been told it constitutes harassment and cyberbullying.
A County Council committee recommended allotting $50,000 to hire legal counsel to defend against the lawsuit, the Maui News reported Tuesday. Councilman Don Guzman recused himself because Mamuad is his part-time executive assistant and godfather to his youngest child.
County Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong told Council members the county never told Mamuad to take down the page.
The lawsuit seeks a federal court order prohibiting Maui County from interfering with Mamuad’s right to speak freely. He also wants unspecified damages and payment for attorneys’ fees.
The Facebook page is described in the lawsuit as a “crowd-sourcing site for traffic information and other news for the island of Maui.” On Tuesday, it had more than 26,000 “likes.”
It started as a page dedicated to posts about a police officer the lawsuit describes as “prolific in writing traffic citations and for his rigorous and meticulous enforcement of Maui traffic laws.” After the officer filed a harassment complaint, the page was renamed “MAUIWatch.” According to the lawsuit, Mamuad “was pressured to do so, in addition to being pressured to shut down the page altogether.”
County spokesman Rod Antone said on Friday that the county wouldn’t be commenting on the lawsuit and that the process to obtain special counsel to represent the county hadn’t been completed.