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Maui admits worker has right to express himself on Facebook

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:24 a.m. HST, May 9, 2014

WAILUKU >> Maui County is settling a federal lawsuit that alleged unconstitutional interference with a Facebook page.

Settlement terms include the county paying $25,000 in attorneys' fees and damages and re-writing its anti-harassment policy, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said Friday in announcing the settlement.

Neldon Mamuad, a part-time county employee and volunteer member of the county's liquor commission, filed a lawsuit in March claiming that 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 popular "MAUIWatch" page, which he worked on during his personal time.

The county will also expunge any record of disciplinary action related to Mamuad's free speech activities, the ACLU said.

"Hopefully the county has learned its lesson and realized that the government cannot use its power to quiet opinions it doesn't like," Mamuad said in a statement.

According to court records, the settlement was reached Thursday.

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said a news release on the settlement would be issued later on Friday.

ACLU attorney Daniel Gluck said the settlement reaffirms that government employees and volunteers can express themselves without fear of retaliation.

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