I’m afraid this is becoming an all-ACLU column. But this Friday, Apr. 4, the Maui County Council is supposed to approve the Corporation Counsel’s request to hire the Honolulu law firm Marr Jones & Wang in Neldon Mamuad’s lawsuit against the county over his MAUIWatch Facebook page.
Long story short, Mamuad–a part-time aide to Councilman Don Guzman and a volunteer Liquor Commissioner–started a Facebook page called TAGUMAWatch (named for the infamous Maui Police Officer Keith Taguma, who patrols Wailuku Town), racked up tens of thousands of “Likes,” then suddenly renamed his page MAUIWatch after county officials told him he was “harassing” Officer Taguma. Mamuad’s complaint says everything was fine on his end, but county officials–like Corporation Counsel Pat Wong–continued to tell him he was violating the county’s Workplace Violence policy, even though his page was now only posting traffic accident and missing woman updates (and occasionally rumors).
For its part, the county denies trying to shut down MAUIWatch. But the Corporation Counsel’s office also wants to hire an outside law firm to handle the suit. The reason? Conflict of interest:
“The Corporation Counsel gave a brief overview of the request for employment of special counsel,” states a Mar. 25, 2014 Police and Intergovernmental Affairs (PIA) Committee report submitted by committee chairman Riki Hokama. “He noted the Department believes there is a conflict of interest prohibiting it from representing the County in the lawsuit. He based this conclusion on, among other things, the Department’s role in investigating the underlying harassment complaint and allegations in the pending civil case specifically referencing Corporation Counsel and a deputy.”
Originally, the county wanted to pay $150,000 to the firm, but the PIA Committee chiseled that down to just $50,000. The full Council vote on Apr. 4 is sure to be interesting, not in the least because of all the members, the biggest opponent to the hiring is Councilmember Mike White, who called the whole thing “a really manini issue,” according to the Mar. 18 Maui News.
Photo of MPD Officer Taguma: Tommy Russo