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Hawaii NewsNewswatch


Samoan-week funds halted

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa » The High Court of American Samoa has stopped the government of the U.S. territory from spending public funds on the Samoan Heritage Week in Hawaii without legislative approval.

Despite the legal action, an official of the event said from Honolulu that it will be held as planned Aug. 8-14 at Keehi Lagoon Park on Oahu.

The court issued a temporary restraining order this week in connection with a lawsuit filed by territorial Sen. Velega Savali Jr. A hearing on the suit, which names Gov. Togiola Tulafono, was set for Monday.

The government has not filed a response to the lawsuit, and there was no comment from the governor’s office as of yesterday.

On July 14 Tulafono asked the Legislature for $50,000 to help fund the second annual event. The request was not acted on because lawmakers went on a four-week, midsession recess the following day.

Despite the lawsuit, event officials are moving forward with plans, said Gus Hannemann, chairman of the event’s organizing committee and brother of former Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

The planned program includes sporting events, cultural entertainment and booths of Hawaii state departments where Samoans are employed, he said.

Tulafono and Mufi Hannemann, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, are scheduled to speak on the last day of festivities.

Savali, a frequent critic of the Tulafono administration, has said last year’s inaugural heritage week was held with the help of a $200,000 appropriation the Legislature approved only after the event was held.



Man’s death in jail cell sparks suit

Maui County and three police employees face trial in a civil rights wrongful-death suit stemming from a man’s death that was not discovered until more than 27 hours after his last recorded movement in a jail cell.

U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright scheduled a trial yesterday for Sept. 28.

Seabright said the family of the deceased man, Dennis Wereb, has presented "compelling evidence" about the failure to closely monitor him while in custody.

The man’s parents, Elmer and Betty Wereb, alleged Maui County failed to give proper training to police personnel.

Erik Heipt, the Werebs’ attorney, said Wereb was homeless and died of alcohol withdrawal after being confined on Sept. 26, 2008.

The county said the Maui medical examiner determined the death was due to a liver disease.

"This is a condition that takes years to develop," said county attorney Moana Lutey.

Lutey said Wereb, 47, arrested for using a knife to threaten a teenager on a bus, showed no signs of medical distress and was interviewed by a police officer with medical training during his detention.


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